Voluntary taxation and the arts

  • R. Andrew LuccasenIII
  • M. Kathleen ThomasEmail author
Original Article


The arts in the USA receive little federal support relative to other developed nations. Because culture and the arts are often viewed as a nonessential role of government, public officials have proposed eliminating public funding for the arts. We examine support for public arts funding using a real-donation experiment (Eckel and Grossman in Games Econ Behav 16(2):181–191, 1996). Real-donation experiments combine elements of a controlled laboratory experiment with the context of a field experiment. In this “giving to the government” experiment, each participant allocates money between herself and a charitable organization supporting either cancer research, education, or the arts. There are two charities within each function: one is a private organization and the other a government agency. Not only do participants donate significant amounts to support the arts generally, we observe significant donations to a government agency that funds the arts. We find similar donation rates to cancer research and education as Li et al. (J Publ Econ 95(9–10):1190–1201, 2011), which provides a measure of external validity. Participants donate less to the arts than to cancer research or education and consistently give less to government organizations than to private charities. However, observing voluntary taxation to support the arts stands in striking contrast to current public policy. Significant predictors of giving include the perceived importance, efficiency, and trust of the organization, as well as gender. Our evidence suggests that current public funding for the arts may be less than optimal.

JEL Classification

C91 D64 H2 Z1 


Charitable giving Taxation Laboratory experiment Real donation Philanthropy The arts 



We wish to thank Mississippi University for Women for financial support of this project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BusinessMississippi University for WomenColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of Finance and EconomicsMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA

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