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Conditional generosity and uncertain income: Evidence from five experiments

Christian Kellner (), David Reinstein () and Gerhard Riener

No 1707, Discussion Papers from University of Exeter, Department of Economics

Abstract: We study how other-regarding behavior extends to environments with income uncertainty and conditional commitments. Should fundraisers ask a banker to donate “if he earns a bonus” or wait and ask after the bonus is known? Standard EU theory predicts these are equivalent; loss-aversion and signaling models predict a larger commitment before the bonus is known; theories of affect predict the reverse. In five experiments incorporating lab and field elements (N=1363), we solicited charitable donations from lottery winnings worth between $10 and $30, varying the conditionality of donations between participants. While the results suggest some heterogeneity across experimental contexts and demographic groups, in each experiment conditional donations (“if you win”) were higher than ex-post donations. Pooling across experiments, this is strongly statistically significant; we find a 23% greater likelihood of donating and a 25% larger average donation commitment in the Before treatment. Our findings add to our understanding of pro-social behavior and have implications for charitable fundraising, for effective altruism giving pledges, and for experimental methodology.

Keywords: Social preferences; contingent decision-making; signaling; field experiments; charitable giving. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 C93 D01 D03 D64 D84 L30 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp, nep-soc and nep-upt
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