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Conditional generosity and uncertain income: Evidence from five experiments

Author

Listed:
  • Christian Kellner

    (University of Southampton)

  • David Reinstein

    (Department of Economics, University of Exeter)

  • Gerhard Riener

    (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)

Abstract

We study how other-regarding behavior extends to environments with income uncertainty and conditional commitments. Should fundraisers ask a banker to donate “if he earns a bonus” or wait and ask after the bonus is known? Standard EU theory predicts these are equivalent; loss-aversion and signaling models predict a larger commitment before the bonus is known; theories of affect predict the reverse. In five experiments incorporating lab and field elements (N=1363), we solicited charitable donations from lottery winnings worth between $10 and $30, varying the conditionality of donations between participants. While the results suggest some heterogeneity across experimental contexts and demographic groups, in each experiment conditional donations (“if you win”) were higher than ex-post donations. Pooling across experiments, this is strongly statistically significant; we find a 23% greater likelihood of donating and a 25% larger average donation commitment in the Before treatment. Our findings add to our understanding of pro-social behavior and have implications for charitable fundraising, for effective altruism giving pledges, and for experimental methodology.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian Kellner & David Reinstein & Gerhard Riener, 2017. "Conditional generosity and uncertain income: Evidence from five experiments," Discussion Papers 1707, University of Exeter, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:exe:wpaper:1707
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    File URL: http://people.exeter.ac.uk/RePEc/dpapers/DP1707.pdf
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social preferences; contingent decision-making; signaling; field experiments; charitable giving.;

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • L30 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - General
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations

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