A new experimental mechanism to investigate polarized demands for public goods: the effects of censoring

  • R. Mark IsaacEmail author
  • Douglas A. Norton
  • Svetlana Pevnitskaya
Original Paper


Many social dilemmas involve deciding among alternative public goods, and include cases where part of the population may dislike a particular option. In such cases, an agent may want to spend resources to oppose or reduce the provision of the option they don’t like. We propose the generalized voluntary contributions mechanism (GVCM), which allows allocating resources to increase or decrease the level of public good. Our main treatment variables include two versions of the GVCM (uncensored, or censored at positive provision). We study performance of GVCM for various compositions of the polarized preferences. We find that uncensoring the mechanism does not impose net efficiency costs and leads to more diversity in the provision of the public good. The nature of efficiency loss is more complex compared to standard VCM and is not driven by free riding.


Public goods Generalized voluntary contributions mechanism Experimental economics Social dilemmas 

JEL Classification

C91 C92 H41 C70 D70 



This research was supported by the Florida State University Institute for Energy Systems, Economics, and Sustainability (IESES), by the John and Hallie Quinn Eminent Scholar Chair, by the Charles Hilton Center, and by the College of Social Science and Public Policy. We thank Sean Collins for invaluable programming assistance. Many helpful comments have been provided by participants in presentations at the FSU XS/FS weekly experimental seminar, the Southern Economics Association, the 2010 ASSA Convention, the 2010 ESA World Meetings in Copenhagen, and Concordia University and CIREQ. The journal editor and the anonymous referees provided many helpful comments. Of course, any and all remaining errors are our own.

Supplementary material

10683_2018_9593_MOESM1_ESM.docx (55 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 55 kb)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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