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Crowding Out in Blood Donation: Was Titmuss Right?


  • Mellström, Carl

    () (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)

  • Johannesson, Magnus

    () (Department of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)


In his seminal 1970 book, The Gift Relationship, Richard Titmuss argued that monetary compensation for donating blood might crowd out the supply of blood donors. To test this claim we carry out a field experiment with three different treatments. In the first treatment subjects are given the opportunity to become blood donors without any compensation. In the second treatment subjects receive a payment of SEK 50 (approx. $7) for becoming blood donors, and in the third treatment subjects can choose between a SEK 50 payment and donating SEK 50 to charity. The results differ markedly between men and women. For men the supply of blood donors is not significantly different among the three experimental groups. For women there is a significant crowding out effect. The supply of blood donors decreases by almost half when a monetary payment is introduced. There is also a significant effect of allowing individuals to donate the payment to charity, and this effect fully counteracts the crowding out effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Mellström, Carl & Johannesson, Magnus, 2005. "Crowding Out in Blood Donation: Was Titmuss Right?," Working Papers in Economics 180, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 08 Feb 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:gunwpe:0180

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Crowding out; monetary incentives; field experiments; altruism;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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