A Field Experiment In Charitable Contribution: The Impact Of Social Information On The Voluntary Provision Of Public Goods

Shang, Jen; Croson, Rachel, (2009). A Field Experiment In Charitable Contribution: The Impact Of Social Information On The Voluntary Provision Of Public Goods. The Economic Journal, 119, 540, 1422–1439.

Keywords: anonymity, field experiments, peers, philanthropy, reputation, social influence


Type of evidence: Field-exp-charity

Related tools: Reveal previous donations

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Paper summary

++++ Shang & Croson: Field Experiments in Charitable Contribution: The Impact of Social Influence on the Voluntary Provision of PG's |

Radio fund-drive

“We had another member, they contributed $75 [$180 or $300]. How much would you like to pledge today?”

Other results:

  • Renewal rates higher
  • In a followup (simultaneous?) experiment, they did the same thing for renewing callers, but using $600 and $1000 prompts; evidence that the higher prompt was discouraging



We study the effect of social information on the voluntary provision of public goods. Competing theories predict that others’ contributions might be either substitutes or complements to one's own. We demonstrate a positive social information effect on individual contributions, supporting theories of complementarities. We find the most influential level of social information is drawn from the 90th to 95th percentile of previous contributions. We furthermore find the effect to be significant for new members but not for renewing members. In the most effective condition, social information increases contributions by 12% ($13). These increased contributions do not crowd out future contributions.


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This paper has been added by David Reinstein

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