What Determines Giving to Hurricane Katrina Victims? Experimental Evidence on Income, Race, and Fairness

Christina M. Fong, Erzo F.P. Luttmer

NBER Working Paper No. 13219
Issued in July 2007
NBER Program(s):   PE   POL

We investigate determinants of private and public generosity to Katrina victims using an artifactual field experiment. In this experiment, respondents from the general population viewed a short audiovisual presentation that manipulated respondents' perceptions of the income, race, and deservingness of Katrina victims in one of two small cities. Respondents then decided how to split $100 between themselves and a charity helping Katrina victims in this small city. We also collected survey data on subjective support for government spending to help the Katrina victims in the cities. We find, first, that our income manipulation had a significant effect on giving; respondents gave more when they perceived the victims to be poorer. Second, the race and deservingness manipulations had virtually no effect on average giving. Third, the averages mask substantial racial bias among sub-groups of our sample. For instance, the subgroup of whites who identify with their ethnic or racial group strongly biased their giving against blacks. Finally, subjective support for government spending to help Katrina victims was significantly influenced by both our race and deservingness manipulations, but not by the income manipulation. White respondents supported significantly less public spending for black victims and significantly more for victims who were described in more flattering terms, such as being helpful and law-abiding.

download in pdf format
   (1641 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13219

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Kimball, Levy, Ohtake, and Tsutsui w12062 Unhappiness after Hurricane Katrina
Fong and Luttmer w15064 Do Race and Fairness Matter in Generosity? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Charity Experiment
Imberman, Kugler, and Sacerdote w15291 Katrina's Children: Evidence on the Structure of Peer Effects from Hurricane Evacuees
Kunreuther and Pauly w12503 Rules Rather Than Discretion: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina
Vigdor w13022 The Katrina Effect: Was There a Bright Side to the Evacuation of Greater New Orleans?
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us