Sacred Values? The Effect of Information on Attitudes Toward Payments for Human Organs

42 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2015 Last revised: 8 Jul 2023

See all articles by Julio Elias

Julio Elias

University of CEMA

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)

Date Written: January 2015

Abstract

Many economic transactions are prohibited—even in the absence of health or safety concerns or negative externalities—because of ethical concerns that cause these exchanges to be perceived as “repugnant” if conducted through a market. Establishing a system of payments for human organs is a particularly relevant example given its implications for public health; in almost all countries, these payments are prohibited because they are considered morally unacceptable—a prohibition that societies seem to accept despite the long waitlists and high death rates for people needing a transplant. We investigate how deeply rooted these attitudes are and, in particular, whether providing information on how a price mechanism can help alleviate the organ shortage changes people’s opinions about the legalization of these transactions. We conducted a survey experiment with 3,417 subjects in the U.S. and found that providing information significantly increased support for payments for organs from a baseline of 52% to 72%, and this increase applied to most of the relevant subgroups of the analyzed sample. Additional analyses on the support for other morally controversial activities show that attitude changes in response to information depend on the type of activity under consideration and interactions with other beliefs.

Suggested Citation

Elias, Julio and Lacetera, Nicola and Macis, Mario, Sacred Values? The Effect of Information on Attitudes Toward Payments for Human Organs (January 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w20866, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2551674

Julio Elias (Contact Author)

University of CEMA ( email )

1054 Buenos Aires
Argentina

Nicola Lacetera

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

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