Justice in an Uncertain World: Evidence on Donations to Cancer Research

Tigran Melkonyan, Zvi Safra, Sinong Ma

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The paper uses information on actual and hypothetical charitable contributions to cancer research in the United Kingdom to elicit information on justice principles endorsed by donors. They face a choice between fund-raising contributions for several hereditary and lifestyle-related cancers. Donors’ choices of how much to donate to different cancers reveal how they view luck vis-a-vis risky individual choices. The estimation results reveal that donations are smaller for cancers with higher prevention rates, which is the probability that the potential cancer victim can avoid the cancer in question by some choice. We also find that provision of information on lifestyle-related causes of cancer adversely affects contributions. In contrast, information on hereditary causes has a positive effect on donations. Furthermore, a large share of donors indicated in their feedback that they chose donations to a hereditary over a lifestyle-related cancer to “punish” poor individual choices. These findings suggest that many donors lean toward choice egalitarianism, which conditions donations on the potential beneficiaries’ choices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281–311
JournalJournal of Risk and Uncertainty
Early online date07 Aug 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 07 Aug 2021


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