Be a Good Samaritan to a Good Samaritan: Field Evidence of Interdependent Other-Regarding Preferences in China

33 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2015

See all articles by Simon Chang

Simon Chang

University of Western Australia - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Thomas S. Dee

Stanford University - School of Education; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Chun-Wing Tse

Central University of Finance and Economics

Li Yu

Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE)

Abstract

We conducted large-scale lost letter experiments in Beijing, a megacity with more than 21 million residents, to test if the observed altruistic attribute of the letter recipient would induce more passersby to return the lost letters. The treatment letters were addressed to a nationally renowned charitable organization in China, while the control letters were intended to an invented individual. A total of 832 ready-to-be-posted letters were distributed in 208 communities across eight districts in the city. The overall return rate was only about 13%. Yet, the return rate of the treatment letters (17%) was nearly twice as high as that of the control letters (9%). The finding adds large-scale field experiment evidence in support of the interdependent other-regarding preferences theory. In addition, we also found that the lost letters were more likely to be returned if they were dropped in communities with a relatively higher income or a postal box located closer.

Keywords: other-regarding preferences, lost letter technique, altruism, China

JEL Classification: C93, D03

Suggested Citation

Chang, Kang-Hung and Dee, Thomas S. and Tse, Chun-Wing and Yu, Li, Be a Good Samaritan to a Good Samaritan: Field Evidence of Interdependent Other-Regarding Preferences in China. IZA Discussion Paper No. 9319, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2656504

Kang-Hung Chang (Contact Author)

University of Western Australia - Department of Economics ( email )

35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, Western Australia 6009
Australia
+61-8-64882893 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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

Thomas S. Dee

Stanford University - School of Education ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-3096
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Chun-Wing Tse

Central University of Finance and Economics ( email )

Room 609 Academic Hall
39 South College Road
Beijing, 100081
China

Li Yu

Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE) ( email )

39 South College Road
Haidian District
Beijing, Beijing 100081
China

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