Giving to poverty relief charities: the impact of beliefs and misperceptions toward income redistribution in a real donation experiment

R. Andrew Luccasen, M. Kathleen Thomas, Philip J. Grossman

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Many Americans hold erroneous beliefs regarding the level of inequality in the United States and the efforts by the federal government to alleviate poverty. In general, they overestimate the extent of poverty relief undertaken by government. Given that poverty relief programs are a public good and likely underprovided, overestimation of the level of income redistribution is likely to exacerbate this under-provision by reducing giving to private charities. This paper considers if this misperception affects giving to poverty-relief charities. We report a real-donation experiment investigating links between contributions to poverty-relief charities and perceptions of federal transfers to low income households. We also ask participants to self-identify political affiliation, religiosity, race, and gender. We find that donations to our poverty relief charities are inversely related to the perceived transfers made to the poorest quintile. Donations are approximately $0.20 less for each $1000 of perceived transfers. Interestingly, we find little correlation between giving and political beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-409
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Choice and Welfare
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

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