Forward-Looking Belief Elicitation Enhances Inter-Generational Beneficence
36 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2020
Date Written: June 9, 2020
One of the challenges in managing the Earth’s common pool resources, such as a livable climate or the supply of safe drinking water, is to motivate successive generations to make the costly effort not to deplete them out of reasons including inter-generational beneficence. In the context of sequential contributions, inter-generational reciprocity dynamically amplifies low past efforts by decreasing successors’ rates of contribution. The behavioral literature provides few interventions to motivate inter-generational beneficence. We identify a simple intervention that motivates contributions by decision makers who are not beneficiaries of their predecessors effectively disabling the negative side of inter-generational reciprocity. In a large online experiment with 1378 subjects, we show that asking decision makers to forecast future generations’ beneficence considerably increases their rate of contribution (from 46% to over 60%). By shifting decision makers’ attention from the immediate past to the future, the intervention is most effective in enhancing inter-generational beneficence of subjects who were not beneficiaries of their predecessors, effectively neutralizing negative inter-generational reciprocity effects. We provide suggestive evidence that the attentional channel is the main mechanism at work.
JEL Classification: C91, D03, D91, Q54
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation