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Why Volunteer? Evidence on the Role of Altruism, Reputation, and Incentives

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  • Caitlin Knowles Myers

    ()

  • Jeffrey Carpenter

    ()

Abstract

Volunteering plays a prominent role in the charitable provision of goods and services, yet we know relatively little about why people engage in such prosocial acts. The list of possible motivations is long, but recent research has focused on altruism, reputational concerns, and material incentives. We present an analysis of a unique data set that combines an experimental measure of altruism, surveyed measures of other factors including reputational concerns, and call records from volunteer firefighters that provide an objective measure of the hours volunteered. Controlling for a variety of other explanations, we find that altruism and reputational concerns are positively associated with the decision to volunteer. Moreover, by utilizing variation in the presence and level of small stipends paid to the firefighters, we find that the positive effect of monetary incentives declines with reputational concerns, supporting a prediction that extrinsic incentives can crowd out prosocial behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Caitlin Knowles Myers & Jeffrey Carpenter, 2007. "Why Volunteer? Evidence on the Role of Altruism, Reputation, and Incentives," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0712, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0712
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Bruno, Bruna & Fiorillo, Damiano, 2012. "Why without pay? Intrinsic motivation in the unpaid labour supply," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 659-669.
    2. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2010. "Individual and Corporate Social Responsibility," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 77(305), pages 1-19, January.
    3. de Oliveira, Angela C.M. & Croson, Rachel T.A. & Eckel, Catherine, 2011. "The giving type: Identifying donors," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 428-435.
    4. Cappellari, Lorenzo & Ghinetti, Paolo & Turati, Gilberto, 2011. "On time and money donations," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 853-867.
    5. Elisabeth Gsottbauer & Jeroen Bergh, 2011. "Environmental Policy Theory Given Bounded Rationality and Other-regarding Preferences," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 49(2), pages 263-304, June.
    6. Cárdenas, Juan Camilo & Chong, Alberto & Ñopo, Hugo, 2013. "Stated social behavior and revealed actions: Evidence from six Latin American countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 16-33.
    7. Damiano Fiorillo, 2011. "Volunteer work and domain satisfactions: evidence from Italy," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 39(1/2), pages 97-124, December.
    8. Simon Cornée & Marc Jegers & Ariane Szafarz, 2018. "A Theory of Social Finance," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 2018-02, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.
    9. Linardi, Sera & McConnell, Margaret A., 2011. "No excuses for good behavior: Volunteering and the social environment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(5), pages 445-454.
    10. Miklós Antal & Ardjan Gazheli & Jeroen van den Bergh, 2012. "Behavioral Foundations of Sustainability Transitions," WWWforEurope Working Papers series 3, WWWforEurope.
    11. Enrico Colombatto & Valerio Tavormina, 2015. "Does altruism justify privileges?," ICER Working Papers 01-2015, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
    12. repec:wfo:wstudy:46424 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Yannis Georgellis & Vurain Tabvuma, 2010. "Does Public Service Motivation Adapt?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 176-191, May.
    14. Barr, Abigail & Packard, Truman & Serra, Danila, 2012. "Participatory accountability and collective action : evidence from field experiments in Albanian schools," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6027, The World Bank.
    15. Damiano Fiorillo, 2009. "Do monetary rewards crowd out intrinsic motivations of volunteers? Some empirical evidence for Italian volunteers," Discussion Papers 3_2009, D.E.S. (Department of Economic Studies), University of Naples "Parthenope", Italy.
    16. Fiorillo, Damiano, 2010. "Volunteers and conditions under which crowd-out effect could appear. An empirical evidence of psychological self-determination theory," MPRA Paper 22878, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    volunteer; altruism; reputation; firefighter JEL Classification: C93; D12; J22; D64; D82;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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