Do Race and Fairness Matter in Generosity? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Charity Experiment

Christina M. Fong, Erzo F.P. Luttmer

NBER Working Paper No. 15064
Issued in June 2009
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies, Public Economics, Political Economy

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15064

Published: “ 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.

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