Are Incentives Universally Effective? (With Cecilia H. Mo and Katharine Conn)

Do survey incentives that improve response rates in the United States and the Global North perform just as well in other countries? Studies on web survey recruitment have largely come to a conclusion that monetary incentives recruit a higher share of respondents than non-monetary responses. Though these findings largely come from the U.S. or Europe, scholars in other regions have relied on similar monetary incentives such as gifts or lotteries to recruit respondents. We test the assumption that monetary incentives are effective across cultures by running an incentives experiment in Australia, India, and the United States amongst a similar population of pro-social individuals in each country. We find that monetary incentives are effective in the U.S. and Australia, but Indians respond more frequently to charity appeals or descriptive appeals. An additional dictator game corroborates this finding, showing that Indians are much more likely to donate potential lottery winnings to charity than individuals from other countries. Our results suggests that incentives that have worked in Western settings cannot be transported to other settings without prior testing and a careful consideration of the cultural or socioeconomic context of countries.

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