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Subsidizing charitable contributions: A field test comparing matching and rebate subsidies

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  • Catherine Eckel
  • Philip Grossman

Abstract

We report the results of a field experiment conducted in conjunction with a mailed fundraising campaign of a nonprofit organization. The experiment is designed to compare the response of donors to subsidies in the form of matching amounts or rebated amounts. Matching subsidies are used by many corporations as an employee benefit; the US federal tax system encourages giving using a rebate subsidy by making donations tax deductible. The design includes a control group and two levels of subsidy of each type. Our main result is that matching subsidies result in larger total donations to charities than rebate subsidies, a result that is qualitatively similar to the lab findings. The estimated price elasticities for the matching subsidy are very similar to (and insignificantly different from) the lab experiments, while rebate subsidies lead to lower contributions in the field than in the lab. Since rebates in the field involve substantial lags and additional complications as compared with the “instant rebates” of the lab, this latter difference is not unexpected. The matching results are an important step in validating lab estimates of responsiveness to subsidies of charitable giving.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Framed Field Experiments with number 00145.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:feb:framed:00145

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Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

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  1. Dean Karlan & John A. List, 2007. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1774-1793, December.
  2. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-60, June.
  3. John List & David Reiley, 2008. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00091, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. John List, 2006. "Field experiments: A bridge between lab and naturally occurring data," Artefactual Field Experiments 00083, The Field Experiments Website.
  5. Douglas Davis & Edward Millner & Robert Reilly, 2005. "Subsidy Schemes and Charitable Contributions: A Closer Look," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 85-106, June.
  6. Barrett, Kevin S. & McGuirk, Anya M. & Steinberg, Richard S., 1997. "Further Evidence on the Dynamic Impact of Taxes on Charitable Giving," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 50(2), pages 321-34, June.
  7. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2006. "Subsidizing Charitable Giving with Rebates or Matching: Further Laboratory Evidence," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 794–807, April.
  8. John List & David Lucking-Reiley, 2002. "The effects of seed money and refunds on charitable giving: Experimental evidence from a university capital campaign," Natural Field Experiments 00301, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2006. "Do Donors Care about Subsidy Type? An Experimental Study," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series archive-10, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  10. repec:att:wimass:9309 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Clotfelter, Charles T, 1980. "Tax Incentives and Charitable Giving: Evidence from a Panel of Taxpayers," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 319-40, June.
  12. Douglas D. Davis & Edward L. Millner, 2004. "Rebates, Matches, and Consumer Behavior," Working Papers 0401, VCU School of Business, Department of Economics.
  13. Clotfelter, Charles T., 1980. "Tax incentives and charitable giving: evidence from a panel of taxpayers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 319-340, June.
  14. Tiehen, Laura, 2001. "Tax Policy and Charitable Contributions of Money," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 4), pages 707-23, December.
  15. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2003. "Rebate versus matching: does how we subsidize charitable contributions matter?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 681-701, March.
  16. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Cooperation in Public-Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 891-904, September.
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