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Motives for Giving: A Reanalysis of Two Classic Public Goods Experiments


  • Richard Ashley

    () (Department of Economics (0316), 3016 Pamplin Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA)

  • Sheryl Ball

    () (Department of Economics (0316), 3016 Pamplin Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA)

  • Catherine Eckel

    () (School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, Mail Code GR31, 800 W Campbell Road, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75083, USA)


Experimental work in economics prompted the development of theories of other-regarding behavior. In this article we reanalyze two classic public goods experiments and focus on the nature of individuals’ responses to others’ behavior in order to help distinguish alternative motives for giving, including altruism, warm glow, reciprocity, and inequality aversion. Analysis that allows for asymmetric feedback responses generates support for inequality aversion motives but little for reciprocity (matching), altruism, and warm glow. We conclude that individual-level analysis of existing public goods data can provide more insightful, informative estimates of treatment effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Ashley & Sheryl Ball & Catherine Eckel, 2010. "Motives for Giving: A Reanalysis of Two Classic Public Goods Experiments," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 15-26, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:77:1:y:2010:p:15-26

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    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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