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Do subsidies increase charitable giving in the long run?: matching donations in a field experiment

  • Stephan Meier

Subsidizing charitable giving, for example, for victims of natural disasters, is very popular, not only with governments but also with private organizations. Many companies, for example, match their employees’ charitable contributions, hoping that this will foster the willingness to contribute. However, systematic analyses of the effect of such a matching mechanism are still lacking. ; This paper tests the effect of matching charitable giving in a randomized field experiment in the short and the long run. The donations of a randomly selected group were matched by contributions from an anonymous donor. The results support the hypothesis that a matching mechanism increases contributions to a public good. However, in the periods after the experiment, when matching donations have been stopped, the contribution rate declines for the treatment group. The matching mechanism leads to a negative net effect on the participation rate. The field experiment therefore provides evidence suggesting that the willingness to contribute may be undermined by a matching mechanism in the long run.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Working Papers with number 06-18.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbwp:06-18
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  1. Randolph, William C, 1995. "Dynamic Income, Progressive Taxes, and the Timing of Charitable Contributions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 709-38, August.
  2. Dean Karlan & John A. List, 2006. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence From a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 12338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Lucking-Reiley & John List, 2002. "The effects of seed money and refunds on charitable giving: Experimental evidence from a university capital campaign," Natural Field Experiments 00301, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. Riber, D.C. & Wilhelm, M.O., 1996. "Altruistic and Joy-of-Giving Motivations in Charitable Behavior," Papers 1-96-4, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  5. Stephan Meier, 2006. "A survey of economic theories and field evidence on pro-social behavior," Working Papers 06-6, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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