Do Race and Fairness Matter in Generosity? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Charity Experiment
We present a dictator game experiment where the recipients are local charities that serve the poor. Donors consist of approximately 1000 participants from a nationally representative respondent panel that is maintained by a private survey research firm, Knowledge Networks. We randomly manipulate the perceived race and worthiness of the charity recipients by showing respondents an audiovisual presentation about the recipients. The experiment yields three main findings. First, we find significant racial bias in perceptions of worthiness: respondents rate recipients of their own racial group as more worthy. Second, respondents give significantly more when the recipients are described as more worthy. These findings may lead one to expect that respondents would also give more generously when shown pictures of recipients belonging to their own racial group. However, our third result shows that this is not the case; despite our successfully manipulating perceptions of race, giving does not respond significantly to recipient race. Thus, while our respondents do seem to rate ingroup members as more worthy, they appear to overcome this bias when it comes to giving.
Funding by NSF (grant # 0555004 and 0555049), TESS, and Knowledge Networks is gratefully acknowledged. Erzo Luttmer also gratefully acknowledges funding from the National Institute on Aging through Grant Number T32-AG00186 to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Andra Hibbert and Kate Mikels provided excellent research assistance, Jami Gates and two charities in Tuscaloosa, AL, assisted in photographing the city and local charity recipients, and Jennifer Shultis kindly agreed to do the voice-over for the slide show. We are grateful to participants of the Middlebury workshop on the Current State of Philanthropy for helpful comments. All errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“ Do Race and Fairness Matter in Generosity? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Charity Experiment ,” (with Christina M. Fong), Journal of Public Economics , 95(5 - 6), pp. 372 – 394, June 2011.