Rewarding Altruism? A Natural Field Experiment

Milton Friedman Institute Working Paper No. 2011-010

Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics Working Paper No. 2011-010

51 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2011 Last revised: 7 Mar 2012

Nicola Lacetera

University of Toronto - Strategic Management; University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Mario Macis

Johns Hopkins University - Carey Business School; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Robert Slonim

The University of Sydney; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 1, 2011

Abstract

We present evidence from a natural field experiment involving nearly 100,000 individuals on the effects of offering economic incentives for blood donations. Subjects who were offered economic rewards to donate blood were more likely to donate, and more so the higher the value of the rewards. They were also more likely to attract others to donate, spatially alter the location of their donations towards the drives offering rewards, and modify their temporal donation schedule leading to a short-term reduction in donations immediately after the reward offer was removed. Although offering economic incentives, combining all of these effects, positively and significantly increased donations, ignoring individuals who took additional actions beyond donating to get others to donate would have led to an under-estimate of the total effect, whereas ignoring the spatial effect would have led to an over-estimate of the total effect. We also find that individuals who received a reward by surprise were less likely to donate after the intervention than subjects who received no reward, suggesting that for some individuals a surprise reward adversely affected their intrinsic motivations. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding pro-social behavior.

Suggested Citation

Lacetera, Nicola and Macis, Mario and Slonim, Robert, Rewarding Altruism? A Natural Field Experiment (December 1, 2011). Milton Friedman Institute Working Paper No. 2011-010; Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics Working Paper No. 2011-010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1969506 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1969506

Nicola Lacetera (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Strategic Management ( email )

Canada

University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management

Canada

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Mario Macis

Johns Hopkins University - Carey Business School ( email )

100 International Drive
Baltimore, MD 21202
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Robert Slonim

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006
Australia

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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

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