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Class Year

2009

Abstract

This paper uses laboratory evidence from four strategically equivalent voluntary contribution games to evaluate differences in contributions toward a public account due to framing, risk, and uncertainty. I test four hypotheses. (1) Individuals contribute more to a public account when the dilemma is framed as the mitigation of a public loss than the provision of a public good. (2) Individuals contribute more to a public account when the loss is certain than when faced with the risk of a loss. (3) Individuals contribute more to a public account when the loss is certain than when environmental uncertainty is associated with the public loss. (4) Individuals contribute more to a public account when the probability of loss is known than when the probability of loss is unknown. I find that contributions are greatest when the dilemma is framed as the mitigation of a certain public loss. Contributions diminish when environmental risk and uncertainty are introduced, but remain higher than for public good provision. Preliminary laboratory evidence suggests that government intervention may be more necessary in the provision of a public good than in the mitigation of a public bad. Furthermore, much of the debate surrounding optimal allocations of insurance and infrastructure investment seems to be the result of environmental uncertainty as opposed to strategic uncertainty.

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