The following is an excerpt from “More about Generosity: An Addendum to the Generosity, Social Psychology and Philanthropy Literature Reviews,” (University of Notre Dame, July 7, 2009).

Broberg, Tomas, Tore Ellingsen and Magnus Johannesson. 2007. “Is generosity involuntary?” Economics Letters 94: 32-37.

We estimate the distribution of exit reservation prices in a dictator game. The mean exit reservation price equals 82% of the dictator game endowment and only 36% of subjects have exit reservation prices consistent with selfish or social preferences.

Brooks, Arthur C. 2007. “Does giving make us prosperous?” Journal of Public Economics 31:403-411.

Nonprofit economists have always assumed that income is a precursor to giving. In contrast, many philosophical and religious teachings have asserted that it is giving that leads to prosperity. This article seeks to test the non-economic hypothesis, using data from the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. It identifies strong evidence that money giving does, in fact, influence income. This is consistent with extant psychology research which clearly shows that volunteering leads to positive mental and physical health outcomes. The implication of these findings for researchers and managers is that the value of charity is not limited to those who receive the services that giving makes possible. On the contrary, charity unleashes substantial benefits to the givers themselves.

Duncan, Brian. 2008. “Secret Santa reveals the secret side of giving.” Economic Inquiry 47:165-181.

This article shows how a secret Santa gift exchange offers unique insights into the nature of generosity and charitable giving. In a dictator experiment modified with features similar to a secret Santa gift exchange, I find that individuals contribute less when their gifts are allocated such that each person gives to fewer recipients. The results are inconsistent with both altruism and warm glow, suggesting that players are motivated by something in addition to these conventional models of generosity. Several alternative models of generosity are shown to be consistent with the experimental findings, all of which imply that, in addition to any positive externalities, giving can also carry a negative externality.

Klapwijk, Anthon, and Paul A.M. Van Lange. 2009. “Promoting cooperation and trust in “noisy” situations: The power of generosity.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96:83-103.

The authors present an interdependence theoretical framework and advance the argument that generosity serves the important purpose of communicating trust, which is assumed to be of utmost importance to coping with incidents of negative noise (i.e., when the other every now and then behaves less cooperatively than intended). Using a new social dilemma task (the parcel delivery paradigm), it was hypothesized that incidents of negative noise would exert detrimental effects on trust and trust-related judgments and experiences, as well as cooperation, and that relative to tit for tat and self-regarding strategies (stingy or unconditionally cooperative strategies), other-regarding strategies (i.e., unconditional cooperation and generosity) would be more effective at reducing such as detrimental effects. Results from 2 studies provided strong support for these hypotheses, suggesting that the power of generosity is underestimated in the extant literature, especially in its ability to maintain or build trust, which is essential for coping with noise.(PsycInfo)

Konow, James, and Joseph Earley. 2008. “The hedonistic paradox: Is Homo Economicus happier?” Journal of Public Economics 92:1-33.

The “Hedonistic Paradox” states that homo economicus, or someone who seeks happiness for him- or herself, will not find it, but the person who helps others will. This study examines two questions in connection with happiness and generosity. First, do more generous people, as identified in dictator experiments, report on average greater happiness, or subjective well-being (SWB), as measured by responses to various questionnaires? Second, if the answer is affirmative, what is the causal relationship between generosity and happiness? We find a favorable correlation between generosity and happiness (i.e., SWB is directly related to several measures of happiness and inversely related to unhappiness) and examine various possible explanations, including that material well-being causes both happiness and generosity. The evidence from this experiment, however, indicates that a tertiary personality variable, sometimes called psychological well-being, is the primary cause of both happiness and greater generosity. In contrast to field studies, the experimental method of this inquiry permits anonymity measures designed to minimize subject misrepresentation of intrinsic generosity (e.g., due to social approval motives) and of actual happiness (e.g., because of social desirability biases) and produces a rich data set with multiple measures of subjective, psychological and material well-being. The results of this and other studies raise the question of whether greater attention should be paid to the potential benefits (beyond solely the material ones) of policies that promote charitable donations, volunteerism, service education, and, more generally, community involvement, political action, and social institutions that foster psychological well-being.

Wilhelm, Mark Ottoni, Eleanor Brown, Patrick M. Rooney, and Richard Steinberg. 2008. “The intergenerational transmission of generosity.” Journal of Public Economics 92:2146-2156.

This paper estimates the correlation between the generosity of parents and the generosity of their adult children using regression models of adult children’s charitable giving. New charitable giving data are collected in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and used to estimate the regression models. The regression models are estimated using a wide variety of techniques and specification tests, and the strength of the intergenerational giving correlations is compared with intergenerational correlations in income, wealth, and consumption expenditure from the same sample using the same set of controls. We find the religious giving of parents and children to be strongly correlated, as strongly correlated as are their income and wealth. The correlation in the secular giving (e.g., giving to the United Way, educational institutions, for poverty relief) of parents and children is smaller, similar in magnitude to the intergenerational correlation in consumption. Parents’ religious giving is positively associated with children’s secular giving, but in a more limited sense. Overall, the results are consistent with generosity emerging at least in part from the influence of parental charitable behavior. In contrast to intergenerational models in which parental generosity towards their children can undo government transfer policy (Ricardian equivalence), these results suggest that parental generosity towards charitable organizations might reinforce government policies, such as tax incentives aimed at encouraging voluntary transfers.