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Charitable Giving and Income Taxation in a Life-Cycle Model: An Analysis of Panel Data


  • Auten, Gerald
  • Sieg, Holger
  • Clotfelter, Charles


Recent econometric studies of the effect of taxes on charitable giving have called into question the behavioral parameters derived from cross-section models. In particular, these studies imply that taxes affect contributions primarily by influencing their timing, not their long-term levels. The current paper seeks to address this important policy issue by modeling charitable giving in a life-cycle model, with special reference to the effect of taxes and income. It employs a simple two-step estimator that provides consistent estimates of both persistent and transitory effects of income and prices on charitable giving. We estimate the model using a 12-year panel of individual tax returns collected by the Internal Revenue Service. The empirical findings of this paper indicate that persistent income shocks have substantially larger impacts on charitable behavior than transitory shocks. Additionally, there are substantial effects of persistent changes in the tax prices. Estimates of the elasticity with respect to the persistent component of price range from -0.6 to -1.1. While these are indeed smaller than conventional estimates, they would nevertheless imply that tax reforms have long-lasting effects on giving. We also estimate the variances of both transitory and persistent shocks. Variances of the persistent shocks of incomes and donations are increasing during the observation period, indicating a trend towards more inequality. The variance of persistent price shocks is decreasing, which is probably a direct result of tax reforms which were implemented during the sample period.

Suggested Citation

  • Auten, Gerald & Sieg, Holger & Clotfelter, Charles, 1999. "Charitable Giving and Income Taxation in a Life-Cycle Model: An Analysis of Panel Data," Working Papers 99-03, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:duk:dukeec:99-03

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    Cited by:

    1. Parry, Ian, 1999. "Tax Deducations, Consumption Distortions, and the Marginal Excess Burden of Taxation," Discussion Papers dp-99-48, Resources For the Future.
    2. Ehrenberg, R. G. & Smith, C. L., 2003. "The sources and uses of annual giving at selective private research universities and liberal arts colleges," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 223-235, June.
    3. Ian Parry, 2002. "Tax Deductions and the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 9(5), pages 531-552, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C33 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies


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