Charity with Choice: Volume 13

Table of contents

(11 chapters)
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Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to serve as an introduction and motivation for Volume 13 of Research in Experimental Economics. In many cases, these introductory chapters are prefaces, limited to giving a roadmap of the volume and brief discussions of the chapters and why they were included. However, in some cases a more extensive discussion of the state of the literature and discipline can be useful. We have the same goal for this chapter.

Methodology – The methodology is that of a literature review combined with an analysis of the development of issues of endogeneity, self-selection, and formation in laboratory experimental research on public goods, charitable contributions, and nonprofit organizations.

Findings – This chapter traces the path of experimental public goods research as viewed through several lenses. There is a correspondence between the period of carefully controlled conditions in laboratory research and the framework of neoclassical economic theory (Lindahl/Samuelson). Indeed this is one of the original purposes of the earliest experiments by economists. However, there has been a distinct shift away from external control towards more endogenous evolution and selection over the past decade.

Originality – There have been several surveys of public goods research (many are referenced in this chapter). To our knowledge, this is the first to set out the history of, and the imperatives for, this new direction.

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Purpose and approach – We examine theoretically and experimentally how unequal abilities to contribute affect incentives and efficiency when players compete for membership in stratified groups based on the contributions they make. Players have either a low or a high endowment. Once assigned to a group based on their group contribution, players share equally in their group’s collective output. Depending on the parameters, the mechanism has several distinct equilibria that differ in efficiency.

Findings – Somewhat counter to conventional expectation our theoretical analysis indicates that as long as certain assumptions are satisfied, efficiency increases rather than decreases the more abilities to contribute differ. The analysis also suggests various follow-up experiments about equilibrium selection, tacit coordination, and the effect of unequal abilities in systems with endogenous grouping. We conduct an experiment that shows that subjects tacitly coordinate the mechanism’s asymmetric payoff-dominant equilibrium with precision; this precision is robust to a change in the structure and complexity of the game.

Implications – The results suggest that people respond to merit-based grouping in a natural way and that competitive contribution-based grouping encourages public contributions even when abilities to contribute differ, which is the case in all communities and societies.

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Purpose – We investigate the outcomes of public sector charity provision, which relies on income redistribution. Increasing the level of redistribution can result in an efficiency-equality tradeoff. We investigate whether the efficiency-equality tradeoff can be explained by lowered work incentives.

Methodology – The chapter uses the methodology of laboratory experiments. We remove the administration costs of redistribution to see if a significant source of the tradeoff can be explained by lower work incentives.

Findings – We find a significant efficiency-equality tradeoff between low- and high-tax groups explained by lowered work incentives. Labor supply decisions are motivated by strategic and cooperative preferences which vary the size of the tradeoff.

Limitations – Our analysis is limited to measuring the size and distribution of labor income. We discuss avenues such as allowing for crowding out and volunteerism, to further explore the impact of public sector charity provision.

Practical and social implications – Charity can be provided by the public, private, and independent sector. The public sector must redistribute income to provide charity, which leads to an efficiency-equality tradeoff. This calls for a reconsideration of increasing dependence on public sector charity provision.

Originality – The efficiency-equality tradeoff traditionally focuses on the labor supply response to taxation. We allow subjects to respond to how their taxes are being used as well. Subjects are also given feedback on whether they are net taxpayers into redistribution or net recipients from it.

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Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to present a new business model called the Retained Earnings Maximizing (REM) Nonprofit Enterprise. Specifically, the chapter details the nature of the REM enterprise's motivation, organizational control, market interaction with other firms, and obstacles to the growth for the REM enterprise. Additionally, the chapter outlines a research agenda for experimental and empirical inquiries into nonprofit organizations and the REM enterprise.

Methodology – This chapter utilizes standard industrial organization theory in a nonmathematical approach to explaining the nature of the REM enterprise.

Findings – The chapter seeks to establish the business model of the REM. By inquiring into the nature of the REM enterprise, the chapter provides the basis for future research.

Research Limitations – The research was limited in terms of potential case studies because this is a new business model that is being proposed.

Practical Implications – The chapter could have large practical implications for increased and more consistent revenues to philanthropic organizations. Since writing the chapter, we tried to implement our own REM business model in an on campus coffee shop. Other ventures are being established in a similar vein.

Value of the Chapter – The adoption of the L3C legal structure by a handful of states demonstrates the desire to establish new business models with charitable ends. Likewise, the REM business model hopes to increase levels of philanthropy while spurring innovative thought about the Independent Sector which has been underrepresented in economic research.

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Purpose – Motivated by new models of nonprofit organizations, we study a voluntary contributions environment in which the productivity of the public goods process is chosen endogenously by a manager. The experimental treatments incorporate two institutions of transparency in the organization, which we conjecture will assist the manager in achieving an outcome superior to the standard free-riding prediction.

Methodology – The chapter uses the methodology of laboratory experimental economics.

Findings – The findings demonstrate that transparency institutions can be important for assisting the manager and the stakeholders achieve relative stable and efficient outcomes.

Limitations – We discuss obvious areas for further investigation including environments in which firm productivity is only stochastically related to the decisions of the manager.

Practical and Social Implications – The chapter is oriented to real-world issues in the organization of nonprofit enterprises, which were a once ubiquitous and now re-emerging source of charitable activity. The chapter is written so that it should be accessible to informed practitioners in nonprofit organizations.

Originality – The study of endogenous environments and institutions in the provision of charitable and public goods is a relatively new advance and is indeed the theme of Research in Experimental Economics, Volume 13, “Charity with Choice.”

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This chapter investigates the relationship between heterogeneous social preferences and charitable giving under alternative prices of giving and types of subsidies. Using 10 allocation decisions, we categorize participants’ social preferences as self-interested, inequity averse, or social surplus maximizing. In subsequent charitable giving treatments, analysis of within-person decision-making gives support for several predictions consistent with social preference types: social surplus maximizers are most likely to give to a charity that increases production; inequity averters give more to charity than do other groups; all preference types give more when the price of giving declines; and social surplus maximizers are more responsive to the price of giving than are inequity averters.

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To transform donations “in kind” into cash, charities of all sizes use auctions and raffles. Despite this, neither the theory nor the practice of efficient fund-raising – and, in particular, charity auctions – has received sufficient attention from economists, especially the fact that participation in fund-raisers is endogenous. We describe, in detail, the design and implementation of an experiment to examine 15 charity auction mechanisms. While some of the mechanisms have already received attention from both theorists and empiricists, ours is the first comprehensive examination of all existing mechanisms and the first to explore the potential of a few new formats. Our analysis focuses on participation differences among the formats and how theory and supplemental survey data can help explain some of these differences.

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Research in Experimental Economics
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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