SPI Funded Paper
Exploring the Origins of Charitable Acts: Evidence from an Artefactual Field Experiment with Young Children
This paper was published in Economics Letters in 2013
John A. List, Anya C. Samak
University of Chicago, NBER
University of Wisconsin-Madison
An active area of research within economics concerns the underpinnings of why people give to charitable causes. This study takes a new approach to this question by exploring motivations for giving among children aged 3–5. Using data gathered from 122 children, our artefactual field experiment naturally permits us to disentangle pure altruism and warm glow motivators for giving. We find evidence for the existence of pure altruism but not warm glow. Our results suggest pure altruism is a fundamental component of our preferences, and highlight that warm glow preferences found amongst adults likely develop over time. One speculative hypothesis is that warm glow preferences are learned through socialization.
SPI Quick Look:
Both warm glow and altruism are known to play an important role in adults' preferences for charitable giving. This paper explores the relative importance of these factors in children. Results find evidence for the existence of pure altruism but not warm glow, suggesting that warm glow preferences found amongst adults likely develop over time.