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Charitable Giving When Altruism and Similarity are Linked

  • Julio J. Rotemberg

This paper presents a model in which anonymous charitable donations are rationalized by two human tendencies drawn from the psychology literature. The first is people's disproportionate disposition to help those they agree with while the second is the dependence of peoples' self-esteem on the extent to which they perceive that others agree with them. Government spending crowds out the charity that ensues from these forces only modestly. Moreover, people's donations tend to rise when others donate. In some equilibria of the model, poor people give little because they expect donations to come mainly from richer individuals. In others, donations by poor individuals constitute a large fraction of donations and this raises the incentive for poor people to donate. The model predicts that, under some circumstances, charities with identical objectives can differ by obtaining funds from distinct donor groups. The model then provides an interpretation for situations in which the number of charities rises while total donations are stagnant.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17585.

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Date of creation: Nov 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Rotemberg, Julio J., 2014. "Charitable giving when altruism and similarity are linked," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 36-49.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17585
Note: PE
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  1. Warr, Peter G., 1982. "Pareto optimal redistribution and private charity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 131-138, October.
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  10. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2011. "Conspicuous generosity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1131-1143, October.
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  13. Bilodeau, Marc & Slivinski, Al, 1997. "Rival charities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 449-467, December.
  14. Glazer, Amihai & Konrad, Kai A, 1996. "A Signaling Explanation for Charity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 1019-28, September.
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  17. Vesterlund, Lise, 2003. "The informational value of sequential fundraising," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 627-657, March.
  18. Gani Aldashev & Thierry Verdier, 2010. "Goodwill bazaar: NGO competition and giving to development," Post-Print halshs-00754487, HAL.
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