Research / BFI Working PaperOct 07, 2021

Preferences for Giving Versus Preferences for Redistribution

Johanna Mollerstrom, Avner Strulov-Shlain, Dmitry Taubinsky

We report the results of an online experiment studying preferences for giving and preferences for group-wide redistribution in small (4-person) and large (200-person) groups. We find that the desire to engage in voluntary giving decreases significantly with group size. However, voting for group-wide redistribution is precisely estimated to not depend on group size. Moreover, people’s perception of the size of their reference group is malleable, and affects their desire to give. These results suggest that government programs, such as progressive tax-and-transfer systems, can help satisfy other-regarding preferences for redistribution in a way that creating opportunities for voluntary giving cannot.