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Charitable giving as a gift exchange: Evidence from a field experiment

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  • Armin Falk

Abstract

This study reports data from a field experiment that was conducted to investigate the relevance of gift-exchange for charitable giving. Roughly 10,000 solicitation letters were sent to potential donors in the experiment. One third of the letters contained no gift, one third contained a small gift and one third contained a large gift. Whether a potential donor received a letter with or without a gift was randomly determined. We observe strong and systematic effects from including gifts. Compared to the no gift condition, the relative frequency of donations increased by 17 percent if a small gift was included and by 75 percent for a large gift. Consequently, including gifts was highly profitable for the charitable organization. The contribution of this paper is twofold: first, it shows that gift-exchange is important for charitable giving, in addition to the warm-glow motive. Second, the paper confirms the economic relevance of reciprocity by using field data. This extends the current body of research on reciprocity, which is almost exclusively confined to laboratory studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Armin Falk, 2004. "Charitable giving as a gift exchange: Evidence from a field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00238, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00238
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gächter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Astrid Hopfensitz & Frans Winden, 2008. "Dynamic Choice, Independence and Emotions," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 64(2), pages 249-300, March.
    2. Francis Kamarz (editor) & Joshua D. Angrist & David M. Blau & Armin Falk & Jean-Marc Robin & Christopher R. Taber, 2006. "How to do empirical economics," Investigaciones Economicas, Fundación SEPI, pages 179-206.
    3. Elisabeth Gsottbauer & Jeroen Bergh, 2011. "Environmental Policy Theory Given Bounded Rationality and Other-regarding Preferences," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, pages 263-304.
    4. repec:ehl:lserod:33114 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Urs Fischbacher & Simon G�chter, 2005. "Heterogeneous social preferences and the dynamics of free riding in public goods," IEW - Working Papers 261, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    6. Akçomak, İ. Semih & ter Weel, Bas, 2012. "The impact of social capital on crime: Evidence from the Netherlands," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, pages 323-340.
    7. John A. List, 2006. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, pages 1-37.
    8. Jorge Hugo Barrientos Marín, 2006. "Estimation And Testing An Additive Partially Linear Model In A Sysmtem Of Engel Curves," Grupo Microeconomía Aplicada 034, Universidad de Antioquia, Departamento de Economía.
    9. Rufin Baghana & Pierre Mohnen, 2009. "Effectiveness of R&D tax incentives in small and large enterprises in Québec," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 91-107, June.
    10. Stephan Meier & Alois Stutzer, "undated". "Matching Donations - Subsidizing Charitable Giving in a Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 181, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    11. David Reinstein & Gerhard Riener, 2012. "Reputation and influence in charitable giving: an experiment," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 72(2), pages 221-243, February.
    12. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2004. "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior: Testing "Conditional Cooperation" in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 1717-1722.
    13. John A. List, 2011. "The Market for Charitable Giving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, pages 157-180.
    14. Pieter Gautier & Bas van der Klaauw, 2006. "Grow rich while you sleep: Selection in experiments with voluntary participation," Natural Field Experiments 00245, The Field Experiments Website.
    15. Briers, Barbara & Pandelaere, Mario & Warlop, Luk, 2007. "Adding exchange to charity: A reference price explanation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, pages 15-30.
    16. Säve-Söderbergh, Jenny, 2005. "Who is Willing to Let Ethics Guide His Economic Decision-Making? Evidence from Individual Investments in Ethical Funds," Working Paper Series 7/2005, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    17. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, "undated". "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior - Testing �Conditional Cooperation� in a Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 162, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    18. John A. List, 2011. "The Market for Charitable Giving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, pages 157-180.
    19. Philip Brown & Jessica Minty, 2006. "Media Coverage & Charitable Giving After the 2004 Tsunami," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp855, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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