Time-Inconsistent Charitable Giving

James Andreoni, Marta Serra-Garcia

NBER Working Paper No. 22824
Issued in November 2016, Revised in September 2017
NBER Program(s):Public Economics

If social institutions, like fundraising, create incentives that generate utility from deciding to give, then some donors would decline a request to give to charity now while agreeing now to give later. This meets the classic definition of time-inconsistent choices. This is not because of a problem of self-control, but of social-control over the timing of the ask vis-a-vis the gift. In striking contrast to the prior literature, if given a choice of commitment or flexibility regarding decisions now to give later, time-inconsistency due to social-control problems generates strict demand for flexibility. We illustrate this theoretically and experimentally.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22824

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