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Reputation, Altruism, and the Benefits of Seller Charity in an Online Marketplace

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  • Daniel Elfenbein
  • Raymond Fisman
  • Brian McManus
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    Abstract

    We investigate the impact of charity tie-ins on transaction probabilities and sale prices using a large database of eBay auctions. We examine “natural experiments” of precisely matched clusters of charity and non-charity auctions with identical titles, subtitles, sellers, and start prices. We find a 6 to 14 percentage point increase in sale probability and a 2 to 6 percent greater maximum bid for charity items, depending on the fraction of auction proceeds that is donated to charity. The impact on sale probability and price is most pronounced among sellers without extensive eBay histories, suggesting that consumers view charity as a signal of seller quality and a substitute for reputation. We also find that charity-tied products by all sellers are more likely to sell (and at higher prices) immediately following Hurricane Katrina, implying that consumers derive direct utility from seller charity at times when charity is particularly salient.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15614.

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    Date of creation: Dec 2009
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    Publication status: published as Charity as a substitute for reputation: Evidence from an online marketplace (with Daniel Elfenbein and Brian McManus), Review of Economic Studies, 2012.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15614

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    1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 336, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. John List, 2006. "The behavioralist meets the market: Measuring social preferences and reputation effects in actual transactions," Natural Field Experiments 00300, The Field Experiments Website.
    3. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:i:4:p:983-1005 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Ginger Zhe Jin & Andrew Kato, 2006. "Price, quality, and reputation: evidence from an online field experiment," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(4), pages 983-1005, December.
    5. Luis Cabral & Ali Hortacsu, 2004. "The Dynamics of Seller Reputation: Theory and Evidence from eBay," NBER Working Papers 10363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    7. David P. Baron, 2009. "A Positive Theory of Moral Management, Social Pressure, and Corporate Social Performance," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(1), pages 7-43, 03.
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    12. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
    13. Mark Bagnoli & Susan G. Watts, 2003. "Selling to Socially Responsible Consumers: Competition and The Private Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(3), pages 419-445, 09.
    14. Donald S. Siegel & Donald F. Vitaliano, 2007. "An Empirical Analysis of the Strategic Use of Corporate Social Responsibility," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(3), pages 773-792, 09.
    15. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
    16. David P. Baron, 2007. "Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(3), pages 683-717, 09.
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