Why Volunteer? Evidence on the Role of Altruism, Reputation, and Incentives

36 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2007

See all articles by Caitlin Knowles Myers

Caitlin Knowles Myers

Middlebury College; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Jeffrey P. Carpenter

Middlebury College - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: September 2007

Abstract

Volunteering plays a prominent role in the charitable provision of goods and services, yet we know relatively little about why people engage in such prosocial acts. The list of possible motivations is long, but recent research has focused on altruism, reputational concerns, and material incentives. We present an analysis of a unique data set that combines an experimental measure of altruism, surveyed measures of other factors including reputational concerns, and call records from volunteer firefighters that provide an objective measure of the hours volunteered. Controlling for a variety of other explanations, we find that altruism and reputational concerns are positively associated with the decision to volunteer. Moreover, by utilizing variation in the presence and level of small stipends paid to the firefighters, we find that the positive effect of monetary incentives declines with reputational concerns, supporting a prediction that extrinsic incentives can crowd out prosocial behavior.

Keywords: volunteer, altruism, reputation, firefighter

JEL Classification: C93, D12, J22, D64, D82

Suggested Citation

Myers, Caitlin Knowles and Carpenter, Jeffrey P., Why Volunteer? Evidence on the Role of Altruism, Reputation, and Incentives (September 2007). IZA Discussion Paper No. 3021. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1014584

Caitlin Knowles Myers (Contact Author)

Middlebury College ( email )

Middlebury, VT 05753

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Jeffrey P. Carpenter

Middlebury College - Department of Economics ( email )

Munroe Hall
Middlebury, VT 05753
United States
802-443-3241 (Phone)
802-443-2084 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://community.middlebury.edu/~jcarpent/index.ht

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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