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Why Do People Give? Testing Pure and Impure Altruism

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  • Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm
  • Lise Vesterlund
  • Huan Xie

Abstract

Researchers measure crowd-out around one level of charity output to identify whether giving is motivated by altruism and/or warm-glow. However, crowd-out depends on output, implying first that the power to reject pure altruism varies, and second that a single measurement of incomplete crowd-out can be rationalized by many different preferences. By instead measuring crowd-out at different output levels, we allow both for identification and for a novel and direct test of impure altruism. Using a new experimental design, we present the first empirical evidence that, consistent with impure altruism, crowd-out decreases with output.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm & Lise Vesterlund & Huan Xie, 2017. "Why Do People Give? Testing Pure and Impure Altruism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(11), pages 3617-3633, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:107:y:2017:i:11:p:3617-33
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20141222
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship

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