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The Role of Expectations and Gender in Altruism


  • Rigdon, Mary L.
  • Levine, Adam Seth


A central question in the study of altruism has been whether there is a systematic gender difference in giving behavior. Most experimental economics research has found that women are more generous than men. Evidence also suggests that gender differences depend upon the price of giving: males are more altruistic when the price of giving is low, while females are more altruistic when the price of giving is high. However, in the modified dictator game, a key variable in one’s decision to give is what one expects to receive. Systematic differences in those expectations may well contribute to systematic differences in altruistic behavior. We show that these expectations drive an important and widely reported result. When these expectations are homegrown, we replicate the finding. When expectations of receiving are uniform rather than homegrown, gender differences in price sensitivity disappear: males and females give equal amounts. This suggests that it is gender differences in expectations about others’ giving — not differences in tastes for fairness — that explains the previous results.

Suggested Citation

  • Rigdon, Mary L. & Levine, Adam Seth, 2009. "The Role of Expectations and Gender in Altruism," MPRA Paper 19372, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:19372

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    altruism; charitable giving; dictator game; gender differences; experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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