Passing the buck to the wealthier: Reference-dependent standards of generosity

Berman, J Z, Bhattacharjee, A, Small, D A and Zauberman, G (2020) Passing the buck to the wealthier: Reference-dependent standards of generosity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 157. pp. 46-56. ISSN 0749-5978 OPEN ACCESS


Who is expected to donate to charity, and how much should they give? Intuitively, the less financially constrained someone is the more they should give. How then do people evaluate who is constrained and who has money to spare? We argue that perceptions of spare money are reference-dependent with respect to one’s current self: those who earn more than oneself are perceived as having an abundance of spare money and thus as ethically obligated to donate. However, those higher earners themselves report having little to spare, and thus apply lower donation standards to themselves. Moreover, a meta-analysis of our file-drawer reveals an asymmetry: individuals overestimate the spare money of higher earners but estimate the scant spare money of lower earners more accurately. Across all incomes assessed, people “pass the buck” to wealthier others (or to their future wealthier selves), who in turn, “pass the buck” to even wealthier others.

More Details

Item Type: Article
Subject Areas: Marketing
Additional Information:

© 2020 Elsevier. This manuscript version is made available under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license

Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2020 16:09
Date of first compliant deposit: 22 Jan 2020
Subjects: Decision-making
Personal finance
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2022 00:25

Export and Share


Accepted Version - Text
  • Available under License


View details on Dimensions' website

Downloads from LBS Research Online

View details

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item