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Do Race and Fairness Matter in Generosity? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Charity Experiment

  • Fong, Christina
  • Luttmer, Erzo F.P.

We present a dictator game experiment where the recipients are local charities that serve the poor. Donors consist of approximately 1000 participants from a nationally representative respondent panel that is maintained by a private survey research firm, Knowledge Networks. We randomly manipulate the perceived race and worthiness of the charity recipients by showing respondents an audiovisual presentation about the recipients. The experiment yields three main findings. First, we find significant racial bias in perceptions of worthiness: respondents rate recipients of their own racial group as more worthy. Second, respondents give significantly more when the recipients are described as more worthy. These findings may lead one to expect that respondents would also give more generously when shown pictures of recipients belonging to their own racial group. However, our third result shows that this is not the case; despite our successfully manipulating perceptions of race, giving does not respond significantly to recipient race. Thus, while our respondents do seem to rate ingroup members as more worthy, they appear to overcome this bias when it comes to giving.

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Paper provided by Harvard Kennedy School of Government in its series Scholarly Articles with number 4481608.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Publication status: Published in HKS Faculty Working Paper Series
Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:4481608
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  2. 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, vol. 94(5), pages 1717-1722, December.
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  12. Corneo, Giacomo & Fong, Christina M., 2008. "What's the monetary value of distributive justice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 289-308, February.
  13. Glenn Harrison & John List, 2004. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00058, The Field Experiments Website.
  14. Lee, Woojin & Roemer, John E., 2006. "Racism and redistribution in the United States: A solution to the problem of American exceptionalism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1027-1052, August.
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  17. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2005. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," CEPR Discussion Papers 4952, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  19. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
  20. Fong, Christina, 2001. "Social preferences, self-interest, and the demand for redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 225-246, November.
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  24. Christina M. Fong & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2009. "What Determines Giving to Hurricane Katrina Victims? Experimental Evidence on Racial Group Loyalty," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 64-87, April.
  25. Alesina, Alberto & Baqir, Reza & Easterly, William, 1999. "Public goods and ethnic divisions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2108, The World Bank.
  26. Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Strong Reciprocity and Human Sociality," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
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  28. Alesina, Alberto Francesco & Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Sacerdote, Burce, 2001. "Why Doesn't the United States Have a European-Style Welfare State?," Scholarly Articles 12502088, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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