Defaults and Donations: Evidence from a Field Experiment

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We study the effects of defaults on charitable giving in a large-scale field experiment on an online fundraising platform. We exogenously vary default options along two choice-dimensions—the charitable donation decision, and the “codonation” decision regarding how much to contribute to supporting the platform. We document a strong effect of defaults on individual behavior but, nevertheless, find that aggregate donation levels are unaffected by defaults. In contrast, codonations increase in the default amount. We complement our experimental results with a structural model that investigates whether personalizing defaults based on individuals’ donation histories can increase donation revenues.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of Economics and Statistics
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)808-826
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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