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When Identifying Contributors is Costly: An Experiment on Public Goods

Samek, Anya and Sheremeta, Roman (2015): When Identifying Contributors is Costly: An Experiment on Public Goods. Forthcoming in: Southern Economic Journal

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Abstract

Studies show that identifying contributors increases contributions to public goods. In practice, viewing identifiable information is costly, which may discourage people from accessing it. We design a public goods experiment in which participants can pay to view information about identities and contributions of group members. We compare this to a treatment in which there is no identifiable information, and a treatment in which all contributors are identified. Our main findings are that: (1) contributions in the treatment with costly information are as high as those in the treatment with free information, (2) participants rarely choose to view the information, and (3) being a high contributor is correlated with choosing to view information about others.

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