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Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Hooters Effect: NBER Paper Finds Attractiveness of Woman Soliciting Charitable Gift Increases Size of Donation

Check put this paper on the NBER web site: Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment. Here is part of the abstract:

This study develops theory and uses a door-to-door fundraising field experiment to explore the economics of charity. We approached nearly 5000 households, randomly divided into four experimental treatments, to shed light on key issues on the demand side of charitable fundraising. Empirical results are in line with our theory: in gross terms, our lottery treatments raised considerably more money than our voluntary contributions treatments. Interestingly, we find that a one standard deviation increase in female solicitor physical attractiveness is similar to that of the lottery incentive.

The paper notes that "[t]his result is largely driven by increased participation rates among households where a male answered the door."  (The authors are Craig Landry (East Carolina University, Department of Economics), Andreas Lange (University of Maryland, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics), John A. List (University of Chicago, Department of Economics), Michael K. Price (University of Maryland, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics) & Nicholas G. Rupp (East Carolina University, Department of Economics).)

Hat Tip: Dan Shaviro (Start Making Sense), who notes that his "favorite NBER empirical paper of all time remains Joel Slemrod's justly infamous paper in which he found that death is tax-responsive (people die more when it is more tax-favorable to do so). Joel carefully noted that his data did not permit him to determine whether the tax-responsiveness pertained to actual times of death or merely to reported times of death."  The paper is Dying to Save Taxes: Evidence from Estate Tax Returns on the Death Elasticity.  Here is the abstract:

This paper examines data from U.S. federal tax returns to shed light on whether the timing of death is responsive to its tax consequences. We investigate the temporal pattern of deaths around the time of changes in the estate tax system periods when living longer, or dying sooner, could significantly affect estate tax liability. We find some evidence that there is a small death elasticity, although we cannot rule out that what we have uncovered is ex post doctoring of the reported date of death. However, the fact that we find that postponement, rather than acceleration, of death is more likely to occur suggests that this phenomenon is at last partly a real (albeit timing) response to taxation.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2005/10/the_hooters_eff.html

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