No Excuses for Good Behavior: Volunteering and the Social Environment

Posted: 28 Jun 2013

See all articles by Sera Linardi

Sera Linardi

University of Pittsburgh

Margaret McConnell

Harvard University

Date Written: June 27, 2011


We study the effect of the social environment on the quantity and quality of voluntary labor contributions. By extending Benabou and Tirole's (2006) image signaling framework, we derive theoretical predictions on time volunteered given (1) the availability of excuses to stop volunteering and (2) the presence of an authority figure. We test these predictions in an experiment where laboratory subjects are directly involved in a local nonprofit operation. We find that in the absence of excuses to stop volunteering, subjects volunteer longer without working less productively. This increase is partially driven by subjects' reluctance to be the first to stop volunteering. The presence of an authority figure has little impact, but the presence of peers has a positive and significant impact.

Keywords: Prosocial behavior, Experiments, Voluntary contributions, Labor, Social image, Organizational design

JEL Classification: D64, C90, L30

Suggested Citation

Linardi, Sera and McConnell, Margaret, No Excuses for Good Behavior: Volunteering and the Social Environment (June 27, 2011). Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 95, No. 5-6, 445–454 (2011), Available at SSRN:

Sera Linardi (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Margaret McConnell

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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