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An Experimental Test of Gender Differences in Charitable Giving: Empathy Is at the Heart of the Matter

Author

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  • van Rijn, Jordan

    (University of WI and Credit Union National Association)

  • Quinones, Esteban J.

    (University of WI and Center for Demography and Ecology)

  • Barham, Bradford L.

    (University of WI and Center for Demography and Ecology)

Abstract

This study uses a dictator game with a charitable organization as the donation recipient to test whether inequality aversion, empathic concern and feelings of manipulation explain gender differences in giving found in the literature. We first explore whether we can evoke these feelings in the lab by exogenously varying the content of a charitable appeal video. Then we examine whether the evoked feelings help explain heterogeneity in giving between males and females. We find that females donate significantly more than males in the treatments that include personal stories from children, with females donating 63 percent more than males in these treatments. Using instrumental variable (IV) methods, we also show that empathic concern that results from the videos with the children's personal stories increases average donations among females but not males. Although we evoke feelings of empathic concern and inequality aversion among males, this does not translate into increases in donations; on the other hand, empathic concern among females that is evoked via treatments with children's personal stories does lead to increases in average female donations. Our study is novel in demonstrating that females not only have larger stocks of empathic concern than do males, but also donate more in response to empathic concern that results from an emotional charitable appeal featuring children's stories. This highlights the importance of empathic concern in explaining gender differences in giving found in the literature.

Suggested Citation

  • van Rijn, Jordan & Quinones, Esteban J. & Barham, Bradford L., 2017. "An Experimental Test of Gender Differences in Charitable Giving: Empathy Is at the Heart of the Matter," Staff Paper Series 586, University of Wisconsin, Agricultural and Applied Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:wisagr:586
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