Giving to government: Voluntary taxation in the lab

Sherry Li, Catherine Eckel, Philip Grossman, Tara Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


In the U.S., widespread complaints that taxes are too high exist alongside substantial voluntary donations to private charities whose missions parallel those of government agencies. We employ a real donation experiment to compare giving to government agencies and private charities with similar missions, for four different causes (Cancer Research, Disaster Relief, Education Enhancement, Parks and Wildlife) at three levels (national, state, and local). We find that individuals will give to government, paying voluntary taxes to support specific functions. Donations average 22 of an endowment to government, significantly lower than the 27 to private charities. The difference is influenced by cause, level, and perceptions of effectiveness and efficiency, as well as individual characteristics such as income and political affiliation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1190 - 1201
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Cite this