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The impact of downward social information on contribution decisions

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  • Rachel Croson

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  • Jen Shang

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Abstract

In this paper we study the effect of downward social information in contribution decisions to fund public goods. We describe the results of a field experiment run in conjunction with the fundraising campaigns of a public radio station. Renewing members are presented with social information (information about another donor's contribution) which is either above or below their previous (last year's) contribution. We find that respondents change their contribution in the direction of the social information; increasing their contribution when the social information is above their previous contribution, and decreasing their contribution when the social information is below. We hypothesize about the psychological motivations that may cause the results and test these hypotheses by comparing the relative size of the upward and downward shifts. These results improve our understanding of cooperation in public good provision and suggest differential costs and benefits to fundraisers in providing social information.
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Suggested Citation

  • Rachel Croson & Jen Shang, 2008. "The impact of downward social information on contribution decisions," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(3), pages 221-233, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:11:y:2008:i:3:p:221-233
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-007-9191-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-1093, Nov.-Dec..
    2. John A. List, 2007. "On the Interpretation of Giving in Dictator Games," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 482-493.
    3. John A. List & David Lucking-Reiley, 2002. "The Effects of Seed Money and Refunds on Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 215-233, February.
    4. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-1458, December.
    5. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-477, June.
    6. Catherine Eckel, 2005. "Subsidizing Charitable Contributions: A Field Test Comparing Matching and Rebate Subsidies," Working Papers 2098, The Field Experiments Website.
    7. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
    8. Sugden, Robert, 1984. "Reciprocity: The Supply of Public Goods through Voluntary Contributions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(376), pages 772-787, December.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social influence; Social information; Social comparison; Charitable giving; Public goods; C72; C93; H41;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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