Instrument-Induced Bias in Donation Mechanisms: Evidence from the Field

Bailey Norwood 1 , 1  and Jayson L Lusk 2 , 2
  • 1 Oklahoma State University, baileyn@okstate.edu
  • 2 Oklahoma State University, jayson.lusk@okstate.edu

Abstract

Eliciting actual donations toward a public good has been proposed as a means of estimating a lower bound to individuals’ compensating surplus, and can be accomplished using mail/phone surveys or field experiments. This study shows that when warm-glow is present, the elicitation instrument decreases the transaction costs of donating. This presents an obstacle to using the donation mechanism. As a remedy, we propose the use of a multi-donation mechanism where subjects can direct their donation to alternative public goods. Results from a field experiment confirm this instrument-induced bias can be large, suggesting field experiment practitioners should seriously consider how their experimental procedures may alter economic behavior.

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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy (BEJEAP) is an international forum for scholarship that employs microeconomics to analyze issues in business, consumer behavior and public policy. Topics include the interaction of firms, the functioning of markets, the effects of domestic and international policy and the design of organizations and institutions.

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