Does Where You Stand Depend on Where You Sit?: Tithing Donations and Self-Serving Beliefs
Gordon B. Dahl
UC San Diego - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Rochester - Department of Economics
Michael R. Ransom
Brigham Young University - Department of Economics; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
American Economic Review, Vol. 89, No. 4, pp. 703-727, September 1999
Economists and psychologists argue that individuals skew personal beliefs to accord with their own interests. To test for the presence of self-serving beliefs, we surveyed 1,200 members of the Mormon church about their practice of tithing. A tithe is a voluntary contribution equal to ten percent of income. Since respondents must decide privately what income items to tithe, we observe how the income definition depends on an individual's religious and financial incentives. We find surprisingly little evidence that an individual's financial situation influences beliefs about what counts as income for the tithe. However, ambiguity increases the role for self-serving biases.
Keywords: Self serving bias, tithing
JEL Classification: A12, D63
Date posted: July 27, 2004
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