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

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Abstract

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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  • Dirk Engelmann & Alistair Munro & Marieta Valente, 2011. "On the behavioural relevance of optional and mandatory impure public goods: results from a laboratory experiment," NIMA Working Papers 45, Núcleo de Investigação em Microeconomia Aplicada (NIMA), Universidade do Minho.
  • Handle: RePEc:nim:nimawp:45/2011
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    1. Alistair Munro & Marieta Valente, 2016. "Green Goods: Are They Good or Bad News for the Environment? Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment on Impure Public Goods," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 65(2), pages 317-335, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gerrit Frackenpohl & Gert Pönitzsch, 2013. "Bundling Public with Private Goods," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse05_2013, University of Bonn, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Experimental Economics; impure public goods; ethical goods; pro-social behaviour; social norms; experimental dictator games;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • Q59 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Other

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