Public Choice

, Volume 85, Issue 3–4, pp 249–266 | Cite as

Heterogenous demand for public goods: Behavior in the voluntary contributions mechanism

  • Joseph Fisher
  • R. Mark Isaac
  • Jeffrey W. Schatzberg
  • James M. Walker


Numerous laboratory experiments have investigated the performance of several processes for providing public goods through voluntary contributions. This research has been able to identify features of the institution or environment which are reliably likely to produce outcomes “close” to the free riding outcome or “substantially” greater than the pessimistic prediction of standard models. One such feature is the “marginal per-capita return” (MPCR) from the public good. Various authors have altered MPCR between groups or for an entire group at the same time. The experiments reported here address a different question, “What would happen if, within a group, some persons faced a ‘high’ MPCR while others faced a ‘low’ MPCR?”


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andreoni, J. (1988). Why free ride? Strategies and learning in public goods experiments.Journal of Public Economics 37: 291–304.Google Scholar
  2. Andreoni, J. (1993). An experimental test of the public goods crowding-out hypothesis. Mimeo. University of Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  3. Bagnoli, M. and McKee, M. (1991). Can the private provision of public goods be efficient? Some experimental evidence.Economic Inquiry (April): 351–356.Google Scholar
  4. Brookshire, D.S., Coursey, D.L. and Redington, D.B. (1988). Special interests and the voluntary provision of public goods. Mimeo. November.Google Scholar
  5. Fisher, J. and Schatzberg, J. (1988). Asymmetric payoffs in prisoner's dilemma games. Mimeo.Google Scholar
  6. Isaac, R.M., McCue, K. and Plott, C.R. (1985). Public goods provision in an experimental environment.Journal of Public Economics 26: 51–74.Google Scholar
  7. Isaac, R.M. and Walker, J.M. (1988a). Group size effects of public goods provision: The voluntary contributions mechanism.Quarterly Journal of Economics 103: 179–201.Google Scholar
  8. Isaac, R.M. and Walker, J.M. (1988b). Communication and free riding behavior: The voluntary contributions mechanism.Economic Inquiry 26: 585–608.Google Scholar
  9. Isaac, R.M. and Walker, J.M. (1993). Nash as an organizing principle .... Mimeo.Google Scholar
  10. Isaac, R.M., Walker, J.M. and Thomas, S. (1984) Divergent evidence on free riding: An experimental examination of some possible explanations.Public Choice 43: 113–149.Google Scholar
  11. Isaac, R.M., Walker, J.M. and Williams, A.W. (1994). Group size and the voluntary provision of public goods: Experimental evidence utilizing very large groups. Forthcoming,Journal of Public Economics.Google Scholar
  12. Kim, O. and Walker, M. (1984). The free rider problem: Experimental evidence.Public Choice 43: 3–24.Google Scholar
  13. Ledyard, J.O. (1993). Public goods: A survey of experimental research. Mimeo. California Institute of Technology, August. Forthcoming in A. Roth and J. Kagel (Eds.),The handbook of experimental economics.Google Scholar
  14. Marwell, G. and Ames, R. (1980). Experiments on the provision of public goods. II. Resources, interest, group size, and the free rider problem.American Journal of Sociology 85: 926–937.Google Scholar
  15. Olson, M. (1971).The logic of collective action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Palfrey, T.R. and Prisbrey, J.E. (1992). Anomalous behavior in linear public goods experiments: How much and why? Mimeo. California Institute of Technology. September.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Fisher
    • 1
  • R. Mark Isaac
    • 2
  • Jeffrey W. Schatzberg
    • 3
  • James M. Walker
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of AccountingIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of ArizonaTusconUSA
  3. 3.Department of AccountingUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Economics and Workshop in Political Theory and Policy AnalysisIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations