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Do people donate more when they perceive a single beneficiary whom they know? A field experimental test of the identifiability effect


  • Al-Ubaydli, Omar
  • Yeomans, Mike


According to the identifiability effect, people will donate more to a single beneficiary rather than to many beneficiaries, holding constant what the donations are actually used for. We test the identifiability effect for two novel subject pools (the suppliers and beneficiaries of volunteer labor). We also test a refinement of the identifiability effect where we vary whether or not the single beneficiary is personally known to the solicitees. While the behavior of volunteers is consistent with the identifiability effect, we find that the identifiability effect is reversed for beneficiaries of volunteer labor. Moreover, we find that making the single beneficiary personally known to the solicitees lowers donations by a statistically insignificant amount, suggesting that it does not enhance donations.

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  • Al-Ubaydli, Omar & Yeomans, Mike, 2014. "Do people donate more when they perceive a single beneficiary whom they know? A field experimental test of the identifiability effect," MPRA Paper 55382, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:55382

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2006. "A theory of reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 293-315, February.
    2. Duncan, Brian, 1999. "Modeling charitable contributions of time and money," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 213-242, May.
    3. Matthew Rabin & Ted O'Donoghue, 1999. "Doing It Now or Later," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 103-124, March.
    4. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
    5. Duncan Boldy, 1999. "Contribution," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Monitoring, Evaluating, Planning Health Services, chapter 25, pages 261-262 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    6. Omar Al-Ubaydli & Min Lee, 2011. "Can Tailored Communications Motivate Environmental Volunteers? A Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 323-328, May.
    7. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
    8. Burnham, Terence C., 2003. "Engineering altruism: a theoretical and experimental investigation of anonymity and gift giving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 133-144, January.
    9. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-660, June.
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    More about this item


    solicitation; donation; field experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship

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