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What Policies Increase Prosocial Behavior? An Experiment with Referees at the Journal of Public Economics

Listed author(s):
  • Raj Chetty
  • Emmanuel Saez
  • Laszlo Sandor

We evaluate policies to increase prosocial behavior using a field experiment with 1,500 referees at the Journal of Public Economics. We randomly assign referees to four groups: a control group with a six-week deadline to submit a referee report; a group with a four-week deadline; a cash incentive group rewarded with $100 for meeting the four-week deadline; and a social incentive group in which referees were told that their turnaround times would be publicly posted. We obtain four sets of results. First, shorter deadlines reduce the time referees take to submit reports substantially. Second, cash incentives significantly improve speed, especially in the week before the deadline. Cash payments do not crowd out intrinsic motivation: after the cash treatment ends, referees who received cash incentives are no slower than those in the four-week deadline group. Third, social incentives have smaller but significant effects on review times and are especially effective among tenured professors, who are less sensitive to deadlines and cash incentives. Fourth, all the treatments have little or no effect on rates of agreement to review, quality of reports, or review times at other journals. We conclude that small changes in journals' policies could substantially expedite peer review at little cost. More generally, price incentives, nudges, and social pressure are effective and complementary methods of increasing prosocial behavior.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 28 (2014)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 169-188

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:28:y:2014:i:3:p:169-88
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.3.169
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  1. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
  2. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
  3. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
  4. DiNardo, John & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1001-1044, September.
  5. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
  6. Uri Gneezy & Stephan Meier & Pedro Rey-Biel, 2011. "When and Why Incentives (Don't) Work to Modify Behavior," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 191-210, Fall.
  7. James Andreoni & B. Douglas Bernheim, 2009. "Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1607-1636, 09.
  8. repec:feb:framed:0087 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  10. David Card & Stefano DellaVigna, 2012. "Revealed Preferences for Journals: Evidence from Page Limits," NBER Working Papers 18663, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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