Archives for john list



The Social Pressure of Charitable Giving

We recently heard from John List, the economics-of-charity guru, about the use of lotteries in fund-raising.

Here now is a new List paper, co-authored with Stefano DellaVigna and Ulrike Malmendier, published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, called “Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving.” Read More »



John List Explains Why Lotteries Are in Fact a Good Fund-Raising Mechanism

We recently ran on a post on a reader’s query about the economics of a 50-50 fund-raiser. John List, the University of Chicago economics-of-charity wizard (related podcast here), wrote in with a comment:

The intuition of the reader is slightly off.  Although not directly a 50-50 charity drive, we have explored the efficacy of lotteries both theoretically and empirically.  As John Morgan (from Berkeley) has elegantly shown, under standard assumptions (no risk-loving or lottery-loving behavior is necessary), lotteries outperform the simple ask (what we call a VCM).  Lotteries obtain higher levels of public-goods provision than a voluntary contributions mechanism (VCM) because the lottery rules introduce additional private benefits from contributing.

Read More »



To Ask or Not to Ask: Experiments in Charitable Giving

Our recent podcast “What Makes a Donor Donate?” features economist John List, who has concentrated his research on the science of philanthropy. In short, when it comes to convincing people to give, some ways are better than others. But what about just directly asking them?

A new study from authors James Andreoni, Justin M. Rao, and Hannah Trachtman examines the way people behave when solicited for donations by bell-ringers from the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign. The authors designed an experiment where bell-ringers were sent to a grocery store in suburban Boston, and positioned at either one or both of the store’s entrances. Read More »



What Makes a Donor Donate? A New Marketplace Podcast

In our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, we look at the economics of charity — specifically, what works (and what doesn’t) when trying to incentivize people to give. (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript.)

In Australia, Dick Smith’s electronics empire has afforded him enough success to be able to donate about 20 percent of his annual income to charity. But, he says, this kind of generosity is no longer the norm: Read More »



Bloomberg BusinessWeek on Economist John List, And How To Incentivize Potty Training

More well-deserved attention for University of Chicago economist John List, whose research is the star of Chapter 3 of SuperFreakonomics and also featured in the last segment of the Freakonomics movie.

Oliver Staley crafts a long piece that both describes some of List’s recent research endeavors and gives the reader a feel for his personality.

Like all economists, apparently, he has a story about potty training his kids:

List believes so strongly in incentives that he offers his own children lottery tickets to do extra math homework, he says. He promised a daughter a trip to Disney World in exchange for her becoming potty trained. The day he made the offer, she used the toilet and was trained, he says.



This Is What I Call Being Risk-Averse

Two economists walk into a Las Vegas casino. They ask to place a $2,500 bet on the Chicago White Sox to win more than half their games this year. The reply from the casino? That’s too risky. Read More »



A New Method to the Freakonomics Madness

Contributor Ian Ayres sees two subtle shifts in methodology between Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics. Read More »



Experiments in Business

Here’s an article in today’s Financial Times about a class on business experimentation that John List and I taught at the Booth School of Business. It does a nice job of laying out our philosophy regarding data and experiments. Thankfully, the reporter did not mention that most of the students hated the class. Read More »