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Empathic Responsiveness: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment on Giving to Welfare Recipients

Listed author(s):
  • Christina Fong


    (Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University)

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    This paper reports a surprising finding from an experiment on giving to welfare recipients. The experiment tests how offers of money in n-donor dictator games are affected by 1) donors' humanitarian and egalitarian values and 2) direct information about the recipients' work-preferences. People who are self-reported humanitarians and egalitarians have giving that is highly elastic with respect to the apparent worthiness of the recipient. Among high scoring humanitarian-egalitarians, the median offer to a recipient who appeared industrious was $5.00, while the median offer to a recipient who appeared lazy was only $1.00. Among low scoring humanitarian-egalitarians, the median offer was $1.00 in both conditions. I refer to this combination of altruism and equity/reciprocity as empathic responsiveness. This finding can be rationalized by a model of inequity aversion.

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    Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Working Papers with number 2101.

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    Length: 40 pages
    Date of creation: May 2004
    Handle: RePEc:feb:wpaper:2101
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