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Follow the Leader or Follow Anyone - Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

  • Felix Ebeling

    (University of Cologne)

  • Christoph Feldhaus

    (University of Cologne)

  • Johannes Fendrich

    (University of Cologne)

In a fundraising field experiment we show that individuals are not only conditionally cooperative, but that they are also more prone to donate to a homeless individual when the previous donor has a higher social status. We trailed a homeless person asking for donations within Cologne's metro trains for two weeks. Thereby we systematically varied the status of the first giver in the train. In the control treatment we did not intervene. In the low status treatment the first giver was always a (poor looking) low status person from our team and correspondingly in the high status treatment a (rich looking) high status person. In our experiment the probability to receive a donation in a train is 65% higher in the low status treatment than in the control treatment. Additionally, in comparison to the low status treatment, the probability increases by 22% in the high status treatment. To our best knowledge this is the first study providing field evidence for the particular influence of high status individuals on others' economic activities.

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Paper provided by Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences in its series Cologne Graduate School Working Paper Series with number 03-04.

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Date of creation: 10 Mar 2012
Date of revision: 20 Jan 2013
Handle: RePEc:cgr:cgsser:03-04
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  1. Ernesto Reuben & Arno Riedl, 2009. "Enforcement of Contribution Norms in Public Good Games with Heterogeneous Populations," CESifo Working Paper Series 2725, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Hammar, Henrik & Jagers, Sverker & Nordblom, Katarina, 2005. "Tax Evasion and the Importance of Trust," Working Papers in Economics 179, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  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. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
  5. Cagri S. Kumru & Lise Vesterlund, 2010. "The Effect of Status on Charitable Giving," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 12(4), pages 709-735, 08.
  6. Moldovanu, Benny & Sela, Aner & Shi, Xianwen, 2005. "Contests for Status," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 139, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  7. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1085-1107, September.
  8. Sheryl Ball & Catherine Eckel & Philip J. Grossman & William Zame, 2001. "Status In Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 161-188, February.
  9. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Nikolai Roussanov, 2007. "Conspicuous Consumption and Race," NBER Working Papers 13392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Traxler, Christian, 2010. "Social norms and conditional cooperative taxpayers," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 89-103, March.
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