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Is a Donor in Hand Better than Two in the Bush? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

  • Craig E. Landry
  • Andreas Lange
  • John A. List
  • Michael K. Price
  • Nicholas G. Rupp

This study develops theory and conducts an experiment to provide an understanding of why people initially give to charities, why they remain committed to the cause, and what factors attenuate these influences. Using an experimental design that links donations across distinct treatments separated in time, we present several insights. For example, we find that previous donors are more likely to give, and contribute more, than donors asked to contribute for the first time. Yet, how these previous donors were acquired is critical: agents who are initially attracted by signals of charitable quality transmitted via an economic mechanism are much more likely to continue giving than agents who were initially attracted by non-mechanism factors.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14319.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14319.

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Date of creation: Sep 2008
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Publication status: published as Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2010. "Is a Donor in Hand Better Than Two in the Bush? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 958-83, June.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14319
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  1. Dean Karlan & John List, 2006. "Does price matter in charitable giving? Evidence from a large-scale natural field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00279, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Charles T. Clotfelter, 1985. "Federal Tax Policy and Charitable Giving," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clot85-1, October.
  3. Randolph, William C, 1995. "Dynamic Income, Progressive Taxes, and the Timing of Charitable Contributions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 709-38, August.
  4. John A. List, 2007. "On the Interpretation of Giving in Dictator Games," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 482-493.
  5. Craig Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2005. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 11611, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Stephan Meier, 2006. "Do subsidies increase charitable giving in the long run?: matching donations in a field experiment," Working Papers 06-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  7. Richard Steinberg, 1986. "The Revealed Objective Functions of Nonprofit Firms," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(4), pages 508-526, Winter.
  8. Jeff E. Biddle & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1995. "Beauty, Productivity and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre," NBER Working Papers 5366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. John Morgan, 2000. "Financing Public Goods by Means of Lotteries," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(4), pages 761-784.
  10. Chen Yan & Li Xin & MacKie-Mason Jeffrey K, 2005. "Online Fund-Raising Mechanisms: A Field Experiment," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-39, December.
  11. John List & Uri Gneezy, 2006. "Putting behavioral economics to work: Testing for gift exchange in labor markets using field experiments," Natural Field Experiments 00259, The Field Experiments Website.
  12. Edward Lazear & Ulrike Malmendier & Roberto Weber, 2006. "Sorting, Prices, and Social Preferences," NBER Working Papers 12041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. John A. List & David Lucking-Reiley, 2000. "The Effects of Seed Money and Refunds on Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0008, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  14. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  15. Frey, Bruno S & Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, 1997. "The Cost of Price Incentives: An Empirical Analysis of Motivation Crowding-Out," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 746-55, September.
  16. Andreas Lange & John List & Michael Price, 2007. "Using lotteries to finance public goods: theory and experimental evidence," Artefactual Field Experiments 00381, The Field Experiments Website.
  17. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  18. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
  19. De Alessi, Louis, 1975. "Toward an Analysis of Postdisaster Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(1), pages 127-38, March.
  20. Armin Falk, 2007. "Gift Exchange in the Field," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(5), pages 1501-1511, 09.
  21. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2000. "Pay Enough or Don't Pay at All," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 791-810.
  22. Douty, Christopher M, 1972. "Disasters and Charity: Some Aspects of Cooperative Economic Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 580-90, September.
  23. Clotfelter, Charles T., 1985. "Federal Tax Policy and Charitable Giving," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226110486.
  24. Jason Dana & Roberto Weber & Jason Kuang, 2007. "Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 67-80, October.
  25. Vesterlund, Lise, 2003. "The informational value of sequential fundraising," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 627-657, March.
  26. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1987. "Economic Behaviour in Adversity," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226342825, July.
  27. John Morgan & Martin Sefton, 2000. "Funding Public Goods with Lotteries: Experimental Evidence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(4), pages 785-810.
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