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Competitive Charitable Giving and Optimal Public Policy with Multiple Equilibria


  • Sanjit Dhami


  • Ali al-Nowaihi



Consider a large number of small individuals contributing to a charity or to a public good. We study the properties of a competitive equilibrium in giving and allow for multiple equilibria. Our proposed condition, aggregate strategic complementarity, is a necessary condition for multiple equilibria. Consider two equilibria with low (L) and high (H) levels of giving. Comparative statics at L could be perverse (subsidies reduce giving) while those at H could be normal (subsidies induce giving), which rules out the use of incentives at L. We demonstrate how public policy, in the form of temporary direct government grants to charity can engineer a move from L to H. We use a welfare analysis to determine the optimal mix of private and public contributions to charity. Our paper contributes to the broader and more fundamental question of using public policy to engineer moves between multiple equilibria.

Suggested Citation

  • Sanjit Dhami & Ali al-Nowaihi, 2011. "Competitive Charitable Giving and Optimal Public Policy with Multiple Equilibria," Discussion Papers in Economics 11/37, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  • Handle: RePEc:lec:leecon:11/37

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jan Potters & Martin Sefton & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Leading-by-example and signaling in voluntary contribution games: an experimental study," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 33(1), pages 169-182, October.
    2. Daniel Rondeau & John List, 2008. "Matching and challenge gifts to charity: evidence from laboratory and natural field experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(3), pages 253-267, September.
    3. Dean Karlan & John A. List, 2007. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1774-1793, December.
    4. Richard Cornes & Roger Hartley, 2007. "Aggregative Public Good Games," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 9(2), pages 201-219, April.
    5. Murphy, Kevin M & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1989. "Industrialization and the Big Push," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1003-1026, October.
    6. Roberto A. Weber, 2006. "Managing Growth to Achieve Efficient Coordination in Large Groups," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 114-126, March.
    7. Thomas Garrett & Russell Rhine, 2010. "Government growth and private contributions to charity," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 143(1), pages 103-120, April.
    8. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
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    More about this item


    Multiple equilibria; privately supplied public goods; aggregate strategic substitutes and complements; competitive and non-cooperative equilibria; direct grants; charitable redistribution; voluntary contributions to public goods; optimal mix of public and private giving.;

    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods

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