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The power of active choice: Field experimental evidence on repeated contribution decisions to a carbon offsetting program

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  • Kesternich, Martin
  • Römer, Daniel
  • Flues, Florens

Abstract

We investigate how the introduction of an Active Choice requirement influences subject proclivity to contribute to an impure public good in one time and repeated interactions. In a large-scale field experiment, we analyze more than 10000 contribution decisions to a carbon offsetting program in the context of online ticket sales for long-distance buses. We find that the simple requirement of an Active Choice – which circumvents the ethical issues posed by an opt-out design – not only increases participation rates by almost 50% in a first booking decision, but also boosts participation in subsequent bookings. At the same time, the introduction of Active Choice does not induce a substantial decline in returning customer rates. Our data support the theoretical assumption that anticipated guilt is a causal mechanism by which Active Choice induces higher contribution rates, as the opportunity for “choice avoidance” that is inherent to opt-in settings may help subjects circumvent feelings of guilt that would otherwise result from explicit free-riding.

Suggested Citation

  • Kesternich, Martin & Römer, Daniel & Flues, Florens, 2019. "The power of active choice: Field experimental evidence on repeated contribution decisions to a carbon offsetting program," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 76-91.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:114:y:2019:i:c:p:76-91
    DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2019.02.001
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Voluntary carbon offsets; Randomized field experiment; Default setting; Choice architecture;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • L92 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Railroads and Other Surface Transportation

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