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Theory and Decision


This paper investigates the determinants of cost-(in)effective giving to public goods. We conduct a pre-registered experiment to elucidate how factors at the institutional and individual levels shape individual contributions and the cost-effectiveness of those contributions in a novel public good game. In particular, we examine the role of consequential uncertainty over the value of public good contributions (institutional level) as well as individual characteristics like risk and ambiguity attitudes, giving type, and demographics (individual level). We find cost-ineffective contributions in all institutions, but total contribution levels and the degree of cost-ineffectiveness are similar across institutions. Meanwhile, cost-effectiveness varies by giving type—which is a novel result that is consistent with hypotheses we generate from theory—but other individual characteristics have little influence on the cost-effectiveness of contributions. Our work has important positive and normative implications for charitable giving and public good provision in the real world, and it is particularly germane to emerging online crowdfunding and patronage platforms that confront users with a multitude of competing opportunities for giving.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.