Altruism and the Child Cycle of Alumni Donations

Jonathan Meer, Harvey S. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We study alumni contributions to an anonymous research university. If alumni believe donations will increase the likelihood of their child's admission, and if this belief helps motivate their giving, then the pattern of giving should vary systematically with the ages of their children, whether the children ultimately apply to the university, and the admissions outcome. We call this pattern the child cycle of alumni giving. The evidence is consistent with the child-cycle pattern. Thus, while altruism drives some giving, the hope for a reciprocal benefit also plays a role. We compute rough estimates of the proportion of giving due to selfish motives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-286
Number of pages29
JournalAmerican Economic Journal: Economic Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance


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