Media Coverage & Charitable Giving After the 2004 Tsunami
Media coverage of humanitarian crises is widely believed to influence charitable giving, yet this assertion has received little empirical scrutiny. Using Internet donations after the 2004 tsunami as a case study, we show that media coverage of disasters has a dramatic impact on donations to relief agencies, with an additional minute of nightly news coverage increasing donations by 0.036 standard deviations from the mean, or 13.2% of the average daily donation for the typical relief agency. Similarly, an additional 700-word story in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal raises donations by 18.2% of the daily average. These results are robust to controls for the timing of news coverage and tax considerations. We repeat the analysis using instrumental variables to account for endogeneity bias, and the estimates are unchanged. However, we also find that the effect of news coverage varies considerably by relief agency.
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