IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Impact of Athletic Performance on Alumni Giving: An Analysis of Micro Data


  • Jonathan Meer
  • Harvey S. Rosen


An ongoing controversy in the literature on the economics of higher education centers on whether the success of a school's athletic program affects alumni donations. This paper uses a unique data set to investigate this issue. The data contain detailed information about donations made by alumni of a selective research university as well as a variety of their economic and de-mographic characteristics. One important question is how to characterize the success of an athletic program. We focus not only on the performance of the most visible teams, football and basketball, but also on the success of the team on which he or she played as an undergraduate. One of our key findings is that the impact of athletic success on donations differs for men and women. When a male graduate's former team wins its conference championship, his donations for general purposes increase by about 7 percent and his donations to the athletic program increase by about the same percentage. Football and basketball records generally have small and statistically insignificant effects; in some specifications, a winning basketball season reduces donations. For women there is no statistically discernible effect of a former team's success on current giving; as is the case for men, the impacts of football and basketball, while statistically significant in some specifications, are not important in magnitude. Another novel result is that for males, varsity athletes whose teams were successful when they were undergraduates subsequently make larger donations to the athletic program. For example, if a male alumnus's team won its conference championship during his senior year, his subsequent giving to the athletic program is about 8 percent a year higher, ceteris paribus.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Meer & Harvey S. Rosen, 2008. "The Impact of Athletic Performance on Alumni Giving: An Analysis of Micro Data," NBER Working Papers 13937, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13937
    Note: ED PE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Monks, James, 2003. "Patterns of giving to one's alma mater among young graduates from selective institutions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 121-130, April.
    2. Sarah E. Turner & Lauren A. Meserve & William G. Bowen, 2001. "Winning and Giving: Football Results and Alumni Giving at Selective Private Colleges and Universities," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 82(4), pages 812-826.
    3. James Andreoni & Lise Vesterlund, 2001. "Which is the Fair Sex? Gender Differences in Altruism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 293-312.
    4. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Christopher L. Smith, 2001. "The Sources and Uses of Annual Giving at Private Research Universities," NBER Working Papers 8307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Lawrence M. Kahn, 2007. "Markets: Cartel Behavior and Amateurism in College Sports," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 209-226, Winter.
    6. Clotfelter, C. T., 2003. "Alumni giving to elite private colleges and universities," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 109-120, April.
    7. Jonathan Meer & Harvey S. Rosen, 2007. "Altruism and the Child-Cycle of Alumni Giving," NBER Working Papers 13152, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Brendan M. Cunningham & Carlena K. Cochi-Ficano, 2002. "The Determinants of Donative Revenue Flows from Alumni of Higher Education: An Empirical Inquiry," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(3), pages 540-569.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Bednar, Steven & Gicheva, Dora, 2016. "Career Implications of Having a Female-Friendly Supervisor," UNCG Economics Working Papers 16-3, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics.
    2. Jonathan Meer & Harvey S. Rosen, 2009. "Family Bonding with Universities," NBER Working Papers 15493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Meer, Jonathan, 2011. "Brother, can you spare a dime? Peer pressure in charitable solicitation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 926-941.
    4. Avery, Christopher & Cadman, Brian & Cassar, Gavin, 2016. "Academics vs. Athletics: Career Concerns for NCAA Division I Coaches," Working Paper Series 16-013, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    5. Niebler, Sarah & Urban, Carly, 2017. "Does negative advertising affect giving behavior? Evidence from campaign contributions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 15-26.
    6. Jeffrey R. Brown & Stephen G. Dimmock & Scott Weisbenner, 2012. "The Supply of and Demand for Charitable Donations to Higher Education," NBER Chapters,in: How the Financial Crisis and Great Recession Affected Higher Education, pages 151-174 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Meer, Jonathan & Rosen, Harvey S., 2012. "Does generosity beget generosity? Alumni giving and undergraduate financial aid," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 890-907.
    8. repec:pri:cepsud:224rosen is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Hurwitz, Michael, 2011. "The impact of legacy status on undergraduate admissions at elite colleges and universities," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 480-492, June.
    10. Michael L. Anderson, 2012. "The Benefits of College Athletic Success: An Application of the Propensity Score Design with Instrumental Variables," NBER Working Papers 18196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Jonathan Meer, 2013. "The Habit Of Giving," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(4), pages 2002-2017, October.
    12. Phanindra V. Wunnava & Albert A. Okunade, 2013. "Do Business Executives Give More to Their Alma Mater? Longitudinal Evidence from a Large University," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 72(3), pages 761-778, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13937. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.