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Why volunteer? Evidence on the role of altruism, image, and incentives

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  • Carpenter, Jeffrey
  • Myers, Caitlin Knowles

Abstract

We examine motivations for prosocial behavior using new data on volunteer firefighters that contain a dictator game based measure of altruism, surveyed measures of other behavioral factors, and call records that provide an objective measure of time spent volunteering. Controlling for a variety of other explanations, we find that the decision to volunteer is positively correlated with altruism as well as with concern for social reputation or "image." Moreover, by utilizing variation in the presence and level of small stipends paid to the firefighters, we find that the positive effect of monetary incentives declines with image concerns, supporting a prediction that extrinsic incentives can crowd out image motivation for prosocial behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Carpenter, Jeffrey & Myers, Caitlin Knowles, 2010. "Why volunteer? Evidence on the role of altruism, image, and incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 911-920, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:94:y:2010:i:11-12:p:911-920
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Volunteer Altruism Image Extrinsic motivation Firefighter;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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