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Do All Material Incentives for Prosocial Activities Backfire? The Response to Cash and Non-Cash Incentives for Blood Donations

  • Lacetera, Nicola


    (University of Toronto)

  • Macis, Mario


    (Johns Hopkins University)

Experimental studies document that financial rewards discourage the performance of altruistic activities, because they destroy intrinsic altruistic motivations. We set up a randomized-controlled experiment, through a survey administered to 467 blood donors in an Italian town, and find that donors are not reluctant to receive compensation in general: A substantial share of respondents declared they would stop being donors if paid a small amount of cash, but we do not find such effects when a voucher of the same nominal value is offered instead. The aversion to direct cash payments is particularly marked among women and older respondents, while there are neither gender nor age differences in the response to the voucher. Implications for research and public policy are discussed.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4458.

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Length: 19 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Economic Psychology, 2010, 31 (4), 738-748
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4458
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  1. Armin Falk, 2007. "Gift Exchange in the Field," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(5), pages 1501-1511, 09.
  2. Ariely, Dan & Bracha, Anat & Meier, Stephan, 2007. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," IZA Discussion Papers 2968, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Sebastian Kube & Michel Andre Marechal & Clemens Puppe, 2012. "The Currency of Reciprocity: Gift Exchange in the Workplace," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1644-62, June.
  4. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2008. "Social Image Concerns and Pro-Social Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 3771, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
  6. Gary S. Becker & Julio Jorge El�as, 2007. "Introducing Incentives in the Market for Live and Cadaveric Organ Donations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 3-24, Summer.
  7. 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.
  8. Piper, Greg & Schnepf, Sylke V., 2007. "Gender Differences in Charitable Giving," IZA Discussion Papers 3242, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  11. Susanne Neckermann & Bruno S. Frey, 2008. "Awards as Incentives," IEW - Working Papers 334, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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  13. Waldfogel, Joel, 1993. "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1328-36, December.
  14. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520, 07.
  15. Fisher, Robert J, 1993. " Social Desirability Bias and the Validity of Indirect Questioning," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(2), pages 303-15, September.
  16. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2008. "Motivating Altruism: A Field Study," IZA Discussion Papers 3770, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. Andreoni,J. & Vesterlund,L., 1998. "Which is the fair sex? : Gender differences in altruism," Working papers 10, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
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