Unemployment and prosociality

Evidence from an Experiment on Charity to Welfare Recipients: Reciprocity, Altruism and the Empathic Responsiveness Hypothesis

(Fong 2007)

  • The experiment was an n-donor dictator game in which multiple donors were matched with one real-life welfare recipient.
  • There were three recipients (thus 3 distinct treatments). All three recipients were single African-American women with dependent children who did not have full-time jobs, received government assistance, had annual household incomes of less than $25,000, and were less than 55 years old.
  • Three recipients had to fill in a short questionnaire and they differed only in their answers to three final questions, so from the Dictators' point of view they were categorized as:
    • industrious
    • lazy
    • no information (questions were omitted)

Each donor was given a five dollar show-up fee and ten dollars to use in the experiment. Each donor read some information about the recipient, then privately and anonymously gave any amount of the ten dollar pie of his or her choosing – from zero to ten dollars – to the welfare recipient and kept the rest. Each recipient earned the sum of the donations from the donors she was matched with.


  • randomly provided direct information about the recipient's attachment to the labour force – have large and very robust positive effects on offers.

  • average donations to lazy, no-info, and industrios were: 1.8, 3.2, and 2.78 correspondigly.

  • Those donators who were categorized as Humanitarians along Katz-Hass Humanitarianism-Egalitarianism scale, donated 5.00 out of a 10.00 pie to industrious recipients, and only 1$ to 'lazy' ones.

Empirical Studies of Unemployment: Search Behavior, Reintegration and Prevention (Krause 2013).

She measured the chance of finding jobs in a population of unemployed. Several questions regarding their attitudes were asked:

  • Risk attitudes: How do you estimate yourself personally: are you generally prepared to take risks or do you try to avoid risks?
  • Time preferences: How do you regard yourself as an individual: are you someone who generally gets impatient or someone who always has a lot of patience?
  • Trust: How do you regard yourself as an individual: are you someone who generally trusts others or are you someone who does not trust others?
  • Reciprocity: To what extent does the following statement apply to you? I am prepared to accept costs to help someone who has helped me previously.


No results with an exception of risk attitude. More risk averse individuals are less selective, i.e. that they have lower reservation wages – which then lead to higher employment probabilities. Time preferences, trust and reciprocity do not affect the probability of being employed

OLS Coefs:

Risk -.009 (0.003)

Time 0.004 (0.003)

Trust 0.003 (0.004)

Reciprocity 0.003 (0.005)