When Identifying Contributors is Costly: An Experiment on Public Goods

21 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2014  

Anya Savikhin Samek

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR); The University of Chicago

Roman M. Sheremeta

Case Western Reserve University

Date Written: February 14, 2014

Abstract

Studies show that identifying contributors significantly increases contributions to public goods. In practice, however, viewing identifiable information is costly, which may discourage people from accessing such information. To address this question, we design a public goods experiment in which participants can pay a fee to view information about identities and corresponding contributions of their group members. We then compare this to a treatment in which there is no identifiable information, and a treatment in which all contributors are freely identified. Our main findings are that: (1) contributions in the treatment with costly information are as high as those in the treatment with free information, (2) participants choose to view the information about 10% of the time, and (3) being a high contributor is positively correlated with choosing to view identifiable information about others. Thus, it seems that having access to information is important even when such information is rarely viewed. Our findings have practical implications for non-profit organizations with a large pool of donors and for designers of recognition systems, especially in online communities with many participants.

Keywords: public-goods, information, experiments

JEL Classification: C72, C91, H41

Suggested Citation

Samek, Anya Savikhin and Sheremeta, Roman M., When Identifying Contributors is Costly: An Experiment on Public Goods (February 14, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2396283 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2396283

Anya Savikhin Samek (Contact Author)

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
United States

The University of Chicago ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Roman M. Sheremeta

Case Western Reserve University ( email )

10900 Euclid Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44106
United States

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