Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cowen on Charitable Giving

In today's NY Times, economist Tyler Cowen describes recent research on charitable giving. His take:

DONORS to charities, it seems, do not behave rationally. Increasing evidence shows that donors often tolerate high administrative costs, fail to monitor charities and do not insist on measurable results....

donors often give to charities for reasons of pride. Monitoring a charity means worrying about the wisdom of contributing to that charity. Many donors would instead prefer simply to feel good about their generosity and thus they deceive themselves into thinking that all is going well. Furthermore, many donors seek a sense of affiliation and wish to be a part of large and successful organizations — the "winning team," so to speak. Again, these donors do not focus on how, or if, they actually end up improving the world.

Somehow, I suspect that Adam Smith would not be surprised. If anyone finds just the right Smith quotation, please post it among the comments.