Economic Downturn and Volunteering: Do Economic Crises Affect Content Generation on Wikipedia?

38 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2016

See all articles by Michael E. Kummer

Michael E. Kummer

Georgia Institute of Technology; Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim; University of Mannheim - Center for Doctoral Studies in Economics and Management (CDSEM)

Olga Slivko

ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research - Information and Communication Technologies Research Group

Xiaoquan (Michael) Zhang

Chinese University of Hong Kong; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Digital Business

Date Written: November 2015

Abstract

In this paper, we address the impact of surging unemployment on online public good provision. Specifically, we ask how drastically increased unemployment affects voluntary contributions of content to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. We put together a monthly country-level data set, which combines country specific economic outcomes with data on contributions to the online encyclopedia. As a source of exogenous variation in the economic state we use the fact that European countries were affected by the financial crisis in the US in September 2008 with different intensity. For European countries, we find that the economic downturn is associated with more viewership, which channels higher participation of volunteers in Wikipedia expressed in editing activity and content growth. We provide evidence for increased information search online or online learning as a potential channel of the change in public goods provision, which is a potentially important side effect of economic downturn.

Keywords: public goods, unemployment, online platforms, user generated content

JEL Classification: D29, D80, H41, J60, L17

Suggested Citation

Kummer, Michael and Slivko, Olga and Zhang, Xiaoquan (Michael), Economic Downturn and Volunteering: Do Economic Crises Affect Content Generation on Wikipedia? (November 2015). ZEW - Centre for European Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 15-078. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2710625 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2710625

Michael Kummer (Contact Author)

Georgia Institute of Technology ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30332
United States

Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim ( email )

P.O. Box 10 34 43
L 7,1
D-68034 Mannheim, 68034
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/kummermannheim/

University of Mannheim - Center for Doctoral Studies in Economics and Management (CDSEM) ( email )

Mannheim, D-68131
Germany

Olga Slivko

ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research - Information and Communication Technologies Research Group ( email )

D-68034 Mannheim
Germany

Xiaoquan (Michael) Zhang

Chinese University of Hong Kong ( email )

Shatin, N.T.
Hong Kong

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Digital Business ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

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