Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 189–224 | Cite as

Raising charitable children: the effects of verbal socialization and role-modeling on children’s giving

  • Mark Ottoni-WilhelmEmail author
  • Ye Zhang
  • David B. Estell
  • Neil H. Perdue
Original Paper


This paper uses nationally-representative data from the PSID and CDS to estimate the causal effects of two parent socialization actions—talking to children about giving and role-modeling—on children’s decisions whether or not to give to charity. We develop an identification framework based on the intra-household allocation and cultural transmission literatures that shows how different assumptions about parental response to time-varying unobserved changes in children’s prosocial values can be combined with the child fixed effects estimate and the difference between siblings’ over-time-differences estimate to infer a bound on the causal effect of parental action to socialize their children. Under the identifying assumption we think is most reasonable for socializing the willingness to give to charity, that parents treat the socialization actions of others as cultural substitutes, our estimates imply that talking to children about giving raises the probability of children’s giving by at least .13. We find no evidence that parental role-modeling affects children’s giving, except among non-African-American girls. The identification framework and substantive results have implications for those with a general interest in using data from naturalistic settings to estimate causal effects of parental socialization actions, those interested in the external validity of laboratory findings, and those interested in the socialization of warm glow.


Fixed effects Sibling models Intra-household allocation Cultural transmission Warm glow Philanthropy Public goods 

JEL Classification

J13 (Children; Youth) D64 (Altruism; Philanthropy) C23 (Panel data) 



This work was funded by the Notre Dame Science of Generosity project. The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Research Fund also provided financial support. We are grateful to the foundations, corporations, and individuals who, since 2001, have funded the Philanthropy Panel Study (the generosity module in the PSID). These include The Atlantic Philanthropies, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation. Our thanks go to the editor and two anonymous referees for insightful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ye Zhang
    • 3
  • David B. Estell
    • 4
  • Neil H. Perdue
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsIndiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.Lilly Family School of PhilanthropyIndiana UniversityIndianapolisUSA
  3. 3.IMPAQ International, LLCColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Counseling and Educational PsychologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  5. 5.School of Psychological SciencesUniversity of IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA

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