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Seasonal altruism: How Christmas shapes unsolicited charitable giving

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  • Ekström, Mathias

Abstract

Christmas is a holiday of Christian origin with traditions that emphasize prosocial behavior, including charitable giving, but does it actually make people more altruistic? Responding to this question poses a challenge because of the confounding factors of charitable tax breaks, reciprocity motives, pressure from the solicitors and persuasive campaigns for giving that are more prevalent in December. In this paper, I use a unique solicitation situation where these factors are eliminated. Based on nine years of data and more than 50 million giving decisions, I provide three main results. First, the month of December is associated with a 14% increase in the probability to make a donation, thereby providing strong support to the notion of seasonal altruism. Second, exploiting a reform that changed the price of giving, I find that this December effect is equivalent to a 32% discount on charitable giving. Finally, half of the December increase in generosity persists into January before returning to the baseline in February.

Suggested Citation

  • Ekström, Mathias, 2018. "Seasonal altruism: How Christmas shapes unsolicited charitable giving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 177-193.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:153:y:2018:i:c:p:177-193
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2018.07.004
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C33 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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