Casual observation suggests that people are more generous with their time than with their money. In this paper we present experimental evidence supporting the hypothesis. A third of our subjects demand no compensation for non-monetary investments, whereas almost all subjects demand compensation for equally costly monetary investments. The finding supports the contention that generosity to some extent is symbolic and context dependent, and that social norms encourage generosity in the time domain.
Introduction: Except for donations to charities and other gifts from the relatively rich to the relatively poor, generosity is largely expressed by non–monetary means.People often help their neighbors and friends, but rarely give them money.Within organizations, some workers regularly sacriﬁce large amounts of time for the beneﬁt of their colleagues, but would not even consider giving them cash.Economists have proposed at least three sets of explanations for non–monetary generosity. First, it may simply be more efficient to give time than to give money.Second, time gifts may constitute better signals of altruism than money does (Camerer,1988, Prendergast and Stole, 2001, Ellingsen and Johannesson, 2004b). Third, the donor is paternalistic and fears that a cash gift will be spent inappropriately (Pollak, 1988). While we believe that there is something to all of these explanations, our own sense is that powerful so-cial norms mandate greater generosity in the time domain than in the money domain, and that these norms are at best indirectly linked to the economists’ explanations. We are supposed to share our time more willingly than our cash,much as social norms make us vote and give blood.
Author: Tore Ellingsen,Magnus Johannesson
Source: Stockholm School of Economics
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