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The Hidden Benefits of Control: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

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

An important dialogue between theorists and experimentalists over the past few decades has raised the study of the interaction of psychological and economic incentives from academic curiosity to a bona fide academic field. One recent area of study within this genre that has sparked interest and debate revolves around the "hidden costs" of conditional incentives. This study overlays randomization on a naturally-occurring environment in a series of temporally-linked field experiments to advance our understanding of the economics of charity and test if such "costs" exist in the field. This approach permits us to examine why people initially give to charities, and what factors keep them committed to the cause. Several key findings emerge. First, there are hidden benefits of conditional incentives that would have gone undetected had we maintained a static theory and an experimental design that focused on short run substitution effects rather than dynamic interactions. Second, we can reject the pure altruism model of giving. Third, we find that public good provision is maximized in both the short and long run by using conditional, rather than unconditional, incentives.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17473.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17473.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17473
Note: EEE PE
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  1. Dirk Sliwka, 2007. "Trust as a Signal of a Social Norm and the Hidden Costs of Incentive Schemes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 999-1012, June.
  2. Ernst Fehr & John List, 2004. "The hidden costs and returns of incentives - trust and trustworthiness among ceos," Artefactual Field Experiments 00044, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. Andreas Lange & Craig Landry & John List & Michael Price & Nicholas Rupp, 2006. "Toward an understanding of the economics of charity: Evidence from a field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00292, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2011. "Is There a 'Hidden Cost of Control' in Naturally-Occurring Markets? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 17472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. repec:feb:artefa:0093 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. John A. List & David Lucking-Reiley, 2002. "The Effects of Seed Money and Refunds on Charitable Giving: Experimental Evidence from a University Capital Campaign," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 215-233, February.
  8. Vesterlund, Lise, 2003. "The informational value of sequential fundraising," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 627-657, March.
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