Alexander L. Brown

Department of Economics
TAMU 4228
College Station, TX 77843

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org

NBER Working Papers and Publications

May 2014Social Distance and Quality Ratings in Charity Choice
with Jonathan Meer, J. Forrest Williams: w20182
We conduct a laboratory experiment to examine how third-party ratings impact charity choice and donative behavior, particularly in regards to preferences for local charities. Subjects are given a menu of ten charities, with a mix of local and non-local organizations included. We vary whether third-party ratings are displayed on this menu. Subjects perform an effort task to earn money and can choose to donate to their selected charity. We find evidence that subjects' choice of charity is impacted by third-party evaluations but, somewhat surprisingly, there are no obvious preferences for local charities. These third-party assessments have some impact on the percent of earnings that subjects allocate to their selected charity; local charities also accrue more donations, though these results a...

Published: Alexander L. Brown & Jonathan Meer & J. Forrest Williams, 2016. "Social distance and quality ratings in charity choice," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, .

Small Victories: Creating Intrinsic Motivation in Savings and Debt Reduction
with Joanna N. Lahey: w20125
Saving when faced with the immediate option to spend is an unpleasant but not conceptually difficult task. One popular approach contradicts traditional economic theory by suggesting that people in debt should pay off their debts from smallest size to largest regardless of interest rate, to realize quick motivational gains from eliminating debts. We more broadly define this idea as "small victories" and discuss, model, and empirically examine alternative behavioral theories that might explain it. Using a laboratory computer task, we test the validity of these predictions by breaking down this approach into component parts and examining their efficacy. Consistent with the idea of small victories, we find that when a mildly unpleasant task is broken down into parts of unequal size, subjects c...

Published: Brown, Alexander L., and Joanna N. Lahey. "Small Victories: Creating Intrinsic Motivation in Task Completion and Debt Repayment." Journal of Marketing Research 52.6 (2015): 768-783.

May 2013Why Do People Volunteer? An Experimental Analysis of Preferences for Time Donations
with Jonathan Meer, J. Forrest Williams: w19066
Why do individuals volunteer their time even when recipients receive far less value than the donor's opportunity cost? Previous models of altruism that focus on the overall impact of a gift cannot rationalize this behavior, despite its prevalence. We develop a model that relaxes this assumption, al- lowing for differential warm glow depending on the form of the donation. In a series of laboratory experiments that control for other aspects of volunteering, such as its signaling value, subjects demonstrate behavior consistent with the theoretical assumption that gifts of time produce greater utility than the same transfers in the form of money. Subjects perform an effort task, accruing earnings at potentially different wage rates for themselves or a charity of their choice, with the ability ...
NBER Videos

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

Contact Us