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On the behavioural relevance of optional and mandatory impure public goods: results from a laboratory experiment

Ethical goods are increasingly available in markets for conventional goods giving pro-ethically motivated consumers a convenient option to contribute to public goods. In a previous experiment we explored the behavioural relevance of impure public goods in a within-subject setting and observed reduced aggregate pro-social behavior in the presence of impure goods that favor private consumption at the expense of public good provision. In this experiment, we implement a between-subject design to test the behavioural relevance of impure public goods with only a token contribution to a public good cause. From a theoretical perspective, assuming people demand private and public characteristics regardless of how they are provided, we would expect no behavioural relevance of the presence of impure public goods. However, this experiment establishes that pro-social behaviour defined as contributing to a public good, is negatively affected by impure goods with token contributions, in comparison to when they are absent. Furthermore, if the token impure good is mandatory instead of optional the negative effect on pro-social behaviour seems to be offset. The results from this experiment suggest impure public goods are not behaviourally irrelevant, can decrease pro-social behaviour but their optional or mandatory nature can have different behavioural consequences.

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Paper provided by Núcleo de Investigação em Microeconomia Aplicada (NIMA), Universidade do Minho in its series NIMA Working Papers with number 45.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nim:nimawp:45/2011
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  1. Alistair Munro & Marieta Valente, 2008. "Green goods: are they good or bad news for the environment? Evidence from a laboratory experiment on impure public goods," NIMA Working Papers 37, Núcleo de Investigação em Microeconomia Aplicada (NIMA), Universidade do Minho, revised Dec 2011.
  2. 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.
  3. Matthew J. Kotchen, 2003. "Green Markets and Private Provision of Public Goods," Department of Economics Working Papers 2003-05, Department of Economics, Williams College.
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  6. Edward P. Lazear & Ulrike Malmendier & Roberto A. Weber, 2012. "Sorting in Experiments with Application to Social Preferences," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 136-63, January.
  7. Sebastian J. Goerg & Johannes Kaiser, 2009. "Nonparametric testing of distributions—the Epps–Singleton two-sample test using the empirical characteristic function," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 9(3), pages 454-465, September.
  8. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-38, May.
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