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Literature on risk aversion and public goods

Teyssier, Sabrina. "Inequity and risk aversion in sequential public good games." Public Choice 151.1-2 (2012): 91-119. DOWNLOAD
Abstract: Behavioral hypotheses have recently been introduced into public-choice theory (Ostrom in American Political Science Review 92:1–22, 1998). Nevertheless, the individual intrinsic preferences which drive decisions in social dilemmas have not yet been empirically identified. This paper asks whether risk and inequity preferences are behind agents’ behavior in a sequential public good game. The experimental results show that risk aversion is negatively correlated with the contribution decision of first movers. Second movers who are averse to advantageous inequity free-ride less and reciprocate more than do others. Our results emphasize the importance of strategic uncertainty for the correct understanding of which preferences influence cooperation in social dilemmas.

Lange, Andreas, John A. List, and Michael K. Price. "Using lotteries to finance public goods: Theory and experimental evidence*." International Economic Review 48.3 (2007): 901-927. DOWNLOAD

ABSTRACT: This study explores the economics of charitable fund-raising. We begin by developing theory that examines the optimal lottery design while explicitly relaxing both risk-neutrality and preference homogeneity assumptions. We test our theory using a battery of experimental treatments and find that our theoretical predictions are largely confirmed. Specifically, we find that single- and multiple-prize lotteries dominate the voluntary contribution mechanism both in total dollars raised and the number of contributors attracted. Moreover, we find that the optimal fund-raising mechanism depends critically on the risk postures of potential contributors and preference heterogeneity.
Jones, Daniel B. "Education'S Gambling Problem: Earmarked Lottery Revenues and Charitable Donations to Education." Economic Inquiry 53.2 (2015): 906-921. DOWNLOAD
Abstract: I examine the impact that lotteries introduced to support education have on voluntary contributions to education. State lotteries, and the causes they are introduced to support, are highly publicized. This provides the opportunity to assess whether donors are crowded-out by government spending of which they are almost certainly aware. Using donor-level survey data and nonprofits' tax returns, I find that donations to education-related organizations fall with the introduction of a lottery. This result is driven by donors' response to the new (highly publicized) government revenue source (rather than a decrease in nonprofit fundraising efforts). (JEL D64, H3, H75)
Buurman, Margaretha, et al. "Public sector employees: Risk averse and altruistic?." Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 83.3 (2012): 279-291. DOWNLOAD
Abstract: We assess whether public sector employees have a stronger inclination to serve others and are more risk averse than employees in the private sector. A unique feature of our study is that we use revealed rather than stated preferences data. Respondents of a large-scale survey were offered a substantial reward and could choose between a widely redeemable gift certificate, a lottery ticket, or making a donation to a charity. Our analysis shows that public sector employees are significantly less likely to choose the risky option (lottery) and, at the start of their career, significantly more likely to choose the pro-social option (charity). However, when tenure increases, this difference in pro-social inclinations disappears and, later on, even reverses. Further, our results suggest that quite a few public sector employees do not contribute to charity because they feel that they already contribute enough to society at work for too little pay.
Kroll, Yoram, and Liema Davidovitz. "Inequality aversion versus risk aversion." Economica 70.277 (2003): 19-29. DOWNLOAD
Abstract: Inequality aversion and risk-aversion are widely assumed in economic models; however existing economic literature fails to distinguish between the two. This paper presents methodology and a laboratory experiment, which separates inequality aversion from risk aversion. In a set of laboratory experiments, subjects had to choose between two risky alternatives which pay meaningful prizes with the same individual risk but different levels of egalitarianism. Thus, the choice of the more egalitarian alternative implies a higher level of inequality aversion. The experiment was conducted among children, some of whom live on a communal system (kibbutz) and some in the city.
Rohde, Ingrid MT, and Kirsten IM Rohde. "Risk attitudes in a social context." Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 43.3 (2011): 205-225. DOWNLOAD
Abstract: Many experiments have demonstrated that when evaluating payoffs, people take not only their own payoffs into account, but also the payoffs of others in their social environment. Most of this evidence is found in settings where payoffs are riskless. It is plausible that if people care about the payoffs of others, they do so not only in a riskless context, but also in a risky one. This suggests that an individual’s decision making under risk depends on the risks others in his or her environment face. This paper is the first to test whether individuals’ risk attitudes are affected by the risks others face. The results show that risk attitudes appear to be less affected by others’ risks than expected, even though the same subjects do show concerns for inequality in a riskless setting. Interestingly, we find that people prefer risks to be independent across individuals in society rather than correlated.


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