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Field experiments in charitable contribution: The impact of social influence on the voluntary provision of public goods

  • Jen Shang
  • Rachel Croson

We study the effect of social information on the voluntary provision of public goods. Competing theories predict that others[1] contributions might be either substitutes or complements to one's own. We demonstrate a positive social information effect on individual contributions, supporting theories of complementarities. We find the most influential level of social information is drawn from the 90th to 95th percentile of previous contributions. We furthermore find the effect to be significant for new members but not for renewing members. In the most effective condition, social information increases contributions by 12% ($13). These increased contributions do not crowd out future contributions.

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Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Natural Field Experiments with number 00323.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00323
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  1. Sugden, Robert, 1984. "Reciprocity: The Supply of Public Goods through Voluntary Contributions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(376), pages 772-87, December.
  2. Fraser, Cynthia & Hite, Robert E & Sauer, Paul L, 1988. " Increasing Contributions in Solicitation Campaigns: The Use of Large and Small Anchorpoints," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(2), pages 284-87, September.
  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. Desmet, Pierre & Feinberg, Fred M., 2003. "Ask and ye shall receive: The effect of the appeals scale on consumers' donation behavior," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 349-376, June.
  5. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
  6. Iris Bohnet & Richard Zeckhauser, 2004. "Social comparisons in ultimatum bargaining," CREMA Working Paper Series 2004-08, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  7. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  8. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  9. Assar Lindbeck & Sten Nyberg & Jšrgen W. Weibull, 1999. "Social Norms And Economic Incentives In The Welfare State," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-35, February.
  10. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
  11. Catherine Eckel, 2005. "Subsidizing Charitable Contributions: A Field Test Comparing Matching and Rebate Subsidies," Working Papers 2098, The Field Experiments Website.
  12. Timothy N. Cason & Vai-Lam Mui, 1998. "Social Influence in the Sequential Dictator Game," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-37, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  13. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 0042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2003. "Rebate versus matching: does how we subsidize charitable contributions matter?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 681-701, March.
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