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Altruism and the Child Cycle of Alumni Donations

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Abstract:

We study alumni contributions to an anonymous research university. If alumni believe donations will increase the likelihood of their child's admission, and if this belief helps motivate their giving, then the pattern of giving should vary systematically with the ages of their children, whether the children ultimately apply to the university, and the admissions outcome. We call this pattern the child cycle of alumni giving. The evidence is consistent with the child-cycle pattern. Thus, while altruism drives some giving, the hope for a reciprocal benefit also plays a role. We compute rough estimates of the proportion of giving due to selfish motives.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/pol.1.1.258

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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  • American Economic Journal: Economic Policy publishes papers covering a range of topics, the common theme being the role of economic policy in economic outcomes. Subject areas include public economics; urban and regional economics; public policy aspects of health, education, welfare and political institutions; law and economics; economic regulation; and environmental and natural resource economics.
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