Ongoing research at the Chair of Economic Policy covers topics in Public Economics and Behavioral Economics. A current focus is on individual compliance decisions, especially in the context of tax compliance and public good provision. For example, several projects analyze tax compliance and tax fraud, or how individuals’ motivation for voluntary contributions (donations) relates to tax morale. Recent projects extend the focus on compliance to topics including racial discrimination and work performance under monitoring.



New Research and Work in Progress:


  • Monitoring and Work Performance

    This project investigates the motivational effects of monitoring technologies on work performance by means of an online experiment. In a principal agent situation with a real-effort task, the principal chooses the monitoring intensity and the agent her respective effort level in the task. The treatments identify a crowding-out of intrinsic motivation caused by performance monitoring.


  • Administrative Efficiency and Tax Compliance

    This project addresses the role of administrative efficiency for individual tax compliance. The context of the study is the local church tax raised by church districts in Germany. The districts do not enforce the tax and hence rely exclusively on church members' morale as taxpayers. In collaboration with the Protestant Church, we ran a field experiment that manipulated the district-level administrative cost of collecting the local church tax. The cost reductions were randomized at the level of the individual, and taxpayers were informed about the resulting changes in administrative costs in the annual tax notification. We derive two main results. First, communicating a real reduction in tax collection costs results in a reciprocal response of taxpayers along the intensive margin (i.e., tax payments increase). However, this effect is confined to taxpayers whose baseline payment behavior reveals high levels of tax morale. Second, comparing treatments communicating a different degree of shifting of administrative costs from the district to a higher administrative level, we find that higher marginal net-of-cost revenues result in a free-riding response (i.e., tax payments decrease) of individuals with low tax morale. We conclude that the heterogeneity in taxpayers' baseline motivations is crucial for understanding compliance responses to improved administrative efficiency.


  • Cost of Discrimination

    This project sets up a new type of online experiment to study ethnic discrimination. The main purpose of the experiment is to overcome the long-standing problem of how to clearly distinguish between belief-driven and animus-driven discrimination. The project further contributes to a sparse literature focusing situations in which discriminative behavior is costly to the discriminating individual.


  • Competition between Charitable Causes

    In this project, we address the long-standing problem in the literature on charitable giving that incentivizing donations may not only affect giving to the respective cause, but also giving to other causes. So far, little field work has been conducted to better understand and measure this substitution effect. We conduct a field experiment that advances the literature from a partial-equilibrium perspective on incentives and giving to a general-equilibrium perspective.


  • Social Recognition and Exit Decisions

    In a large-scale field experiment with several hundred thousand subjects, we investigate how social recognition affects exit decisions in a context where members of a community jointly finance a public good and subjects can avoid payment by means of an exit decision. We show that social recognition for staying (and thus for contributing) has heterogeneous effects, and that the treatment effect on the willingness to stay varies systematically with the price of community membership.


  • Who to Target in Fundraising? A Field Experiment on Gift Exchange

    This project studies the optimal targeting of gifts in fundraising. We implement a randomized field experiment in a setting where a fundraiser sends out annual solicitation letters to a large population of individuals. Three treatment groups are compared: a control group, a gift treatment group, and a gift-plus-recognition treatment group. We identify a distinct heterogeneity in responses to the gift treatment: both the extensive margin and the intensive margin effects are hump-shaped with respect to donors' baseline willingness to donate, translating into a hump-shaped average treatment effect. Due to the heterogeneity, up-front gifts are cost effective only for individuals with a moderate baseline probability to donate. Targeting the gift to those individuals leads to net revenue gains of 37.3 percent relative to a uniform provision of the gift. We also demonstrate that gifts are not profitable if they are framed in terms of recognition for past donations. The latter finding suggests that behavior in gift exchange is mostly driven by reciprocity concerns.



Discussion Papers:






  • Haufler, A. & J. Rincke (2009): Wer trägt bei der Jahrestagung des Vereins für Socialpolitik vor? Eine empirische Analyse, Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik 10, 123-145.

  • Büttner, T. & J. Rincke (2007): Labor Market Effects of Economic Integration - The Impact of Re-Unification in German Border Regions, German Economic Review 8, 536-560.

  • Büttner, T., M. Kraus & J. Rincke (2003): Hochschulranglisten als Qualitätsindikatoren im Wettbewerb der Hochschulen, Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung 72, 252-270.