17 jul. 2009

Social Image Concerns and Pro-Social Behavior

Using longitudinal data on the entire population of blood donors in an Italian town, we
examine how donors respond to an award scheme which rewards them with “medals” when
they reach certain donation quotas. Our results indicate that donors significantly increase the
frequency of their donations immediately before reaching the thresholds for which the
rewards are given, but only if the prizes are publicly announced in the local newspaper and
awarded in a public ceremony. The results are robust to several specifications, sample
definitions, and controls for observable and unobservable heterogeneity. Our findings are
consistent with social image concerns being a primary motivator of pro-social behavior, and
indicate that symbolic prizes are most effective as motivators when they are awarded
publicly. Because we do not detect a reduction in donation frequency after the quotas are
reached, this incentive based on social prestige leads to a net increase in the frequency of
donations.

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