Using Large Scale Social Media Experiments in Public Administration: Assessing Charitable Consequences of Government Funding of Nonprofits

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Forthcoming

22 Pages Posted: 13 May 2018

See all articles by Sebastian Jilke

Sebastian Jilke

McCourt School of Public Policy; Georgetown University

Jiahuan Lu

Independent

Chengxin Xu

Rutgers University-Newark

Shugo Shinohara

Independent

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

In this article we introduce and showcase how social media can be used to implement experiments in public administration research. To do so, we pre-registered a placebo-controlled field experiment and implemented it on the social media platform Facebook. The purpose of the experiment was to examine whether government funding to nonprofit organizations has an effect on charitable donations. Theories on the interaction between government funding and charitable donations stipulate that government funding of nonprofit organizations either decreases (crowding-out), or increases (crowding-in) private donations. To test these competing theoretical predictions, we used Facebook’s advertisement facilities and implemented an online field experiment among 296,121 Facebook users nested in 600 clusters. Through the process of cluster-randomization, groups of Facebook users were randomly assigned to different nonprofit donation solicitation ads, experimentally manipulating information cues of nonprofit funding. Contrary to theoretical predictions, we find that government funding does not seem to matter; providing information about government support to nonprofit organizations does neither increase nor decreases people’s propensity to donate. We discuss the implications of our empirical application, as well as the merits of using social media to conduct experiments in public administration more generally. Finally, we outline a research agenda of how social media can be used to implement public administration experiments.

Keywords: Social Media, Crowding Out, Donation, Field Experiment, Behavioral Public Administration, Nonprofit, Public Administration, Facebook

JEL Classification: L3, H1

Suggested Citation

Jilke, Sebastian and Lu, Jiahuan and Xu, Chengxin and Shinohara, Shugo, Using Large Scale Social Media Experiments in Public Administration: Assessing Charitable Consequences of Government Funding of Nonprofits (2018). Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Forthcoming , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3164576

Sebastian Jilke (Contact Author)

McCourt School of Public Policy; Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Jiahuan Lu

Independent ( email )

Chengxin Xu

Rutgers University-Newark ( email )

111 Washington St.
Newark, NJ 07102
United States
8628726700 (Phone)

Shugo Shinohara

Independent ( email )

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