Does Where You Stand Depend on Where You Sit?: Tithing Donations and Self-Serving Beliefs

Posted: 27 Jul 2004  

Gordon B. Dahl

UC San Diego - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Rochester - Department of Economics

Michael R. Ransom

Brigham Young University - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

Economists and psychologists argue that individuals skew personal beliefs to accord with their own interests. To test for the presence of self-serving beliefs, we surveyed 1,200 members of the Mormon church about their practice of tithing. A tithe is a voluntary contribution equal to ten percent of income. Since respondents must decide privately what income items to tithe, we observe how the income definition depends on an individual's religious and financial incentives. We find surprisingly little evidence that an individual's financial situation influences beliefs about what counts as income for the tithe. However, ambiguity increases the role for self-serving biases.

Keywords: Self serving bias, tithing

JEL Classification: A12, D63

Suggested Citation

Dahl, Gordon B. and Ransom, Michael R., Does Where You Stand Depend on Where You Sit?: Tithing Donations and Self-Serving Beliefs. American Economic Review, Vol. 89, No. 4, pp. 703-727, September 1999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=569741

Gordon B. Dahl (Contact Author)

UC San Diego - Department of Economics ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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University of Rochester - Department of Economics ( email )

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Michael R. Ransom

Brigham Young University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Provo, UT 84602-2363
United States
801-422-4736 (Phone)
801-422-0194 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://fhss.byu.edu/econ/ransom/

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

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