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Giving little by little: Dynamic voluntary contribution games


  • Duffy, John
  • Ochs, Jack
  • Vesterlund, Lise


Shelling (1960) among others have argued that contributions to public goods may be larger if people spread their contributions and give one small contribution at a time. Examining a threshold public good environment, Marx and Matthews (2000) show that multiple rounds may secure a provision level that cannot be achieved when only one round of contributions is available. Interestingly, sequential contributions both increase the benefit of giving and the cost of free riding. In some environments, zero provision is the unique equilibrium of the one-round contribution game, whereas there are equilibria that reach the threshold in the multiple-round game. We study such an environment experimentally. While initially contributions appear to respond to the possibility of making multiple small contributions, this difference diminishes very quickly. Overall there is little evidence that contributions are larger when individuals slowly can contribute to the public good.
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  • Duffy, John & Ochs, Jack & Vesterlund, Lise, 2007. "Giving little by little: Dynamic voluntary contribution games," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(9), pages 1708-1730, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:91:y:2007:i:9:p:1708-1730

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    9. Andreoni, James & Brown, Paul M. & Vesterlund, Lise, 2002. "What Makes an Allocation Fair? Some Experimental Evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 1-24, July.
    10. Vesterlund, Lise, 2003. "The informational value of sequential fundraising," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 627-657, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. de Oliveira, Angela C.M. & Croson, Rachel T.A. & Eckel, Catherine, 2011. "The giving type: Identifying donors," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 428-435.
    2. Erik Ansink & Mark Koetse & Jetske Bouma & Dominic Hauck & Daan van Soest, 2017. "Crowdfunding public goods: An experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 17-119/VIII, Tinbergen Institute.
    3. Choi, Syngjoo & Gale, Douglas & Kariv, Shachar, 2008. "Sequential equilibrium in monotone games: A theory-based analysis of experimental data," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 143(1), pages 302-330, November.
    4. Arbel, Yuval & Bar-El, Ronen & Schwarz, Mordechai E. & Tobol, Yossi, 2014. "Voluntary Contributions to the Establishment and Operation of Public Goods: Theory and Experimental Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 8532, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Marco Battaglini & Salvatore Nunnari & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2016. "The Dynamic Free Rider Problem: A Laboratory Study," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 268-308, November.
    6. Gaechter, S. & Mengel, F. & Tsakas, E. & Vostroknutov, A., 2013. "Growth and inequality in public good games," Research Memorandum 070, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    7. Steven A. Matthews, 2008. "Achievable Outcomes of Dynamic Contribution Games, Second Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 11-016, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 20 Jun 2011.
    8. Marco Battaglini & Salvatore Nunnari & Thomas Palfrey, 2011. "The Free Rider Problem: a Dynamic Analysis," Working Papers 1354, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Econometric Research Program..
    9. Freytag, Andreas & Güth, Werner & Koppel, Hannes & Wangler, Leo, 2014. "Is regulation by milestones efficiency enhancing? An experimental study of environmental protection," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 71-84.
    10. Matthews, Steven A., 2013. "Achievable outcomes of dynamic contribution games," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 8(2), May.
    11. Cary Deck & Nikos Nikiforakis, 2012. "Perfect and imperfect real-time monitoring in a minimum-effort game," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 15(1), pages 71-88, March.
    12. Oprea, Ryan & Charness, Gary & Friedman, Daniel, 2014. "Continuous time and communication in a public-goods experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 212-223.
    13. Choi, Syngjoo & Gale, Douglas & Kariv, Shachar & Palfrey, Thomas, 2011. "Network architecture, salience and coordination," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 76-90, September.
    14. Roy, Nilanjan, 2017. "Action revision, information and collusion in an experimental duopoly market," MPRA Paper 77033, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Tan, Jonathan H.W. & Breitmoser, Yves & Bolle, Friedel, 2015. "Voluntary contributions by consent or dissent," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 106-121.
    16. Ludwig, Sandra & Strassmair, Christina, 2009. "An Experimental study on the information structure in teams," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 277, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    17. Philip J. Grossman & Mana Komai & James E. Jensen, 2015. "Leadership and gender in groups: An experiment," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 48(1), pages 368-388, February.
    18. repec:eee:jeborg:v:145:y:2018:i:c:p:114-140 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. James Andreoni & Michael A. Kuhn & Larry Samuelson, 2016. "Starting Small: Endogenous Stakes and Rational Cooperation," NBER Working Papers 21934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. repec:eee:jeborg:v:145:y:2018:i:c:p:218-231 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Bolle, Friedel, 2017. "Passing the Buck On the acceptance of responsibility," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 86-101.
    22. repec:eee:pubeco:v:150:y:2017:i:c:p:1-13 is not listed on IDEAS
    23. Steven A. Matthews, 2008. "Achievable Outcomes in Smooth Dynamic Contribution Games," PIER Working Paper Archive 08-028, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.

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    JEL classification:

    • L3 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise


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