I Will Give You My Vote but Not My Money: Preferences for Public versus Private Action in Addressing Social Issues

That's the title of a paper by Bailey Norwood, Glynn Tonsor, and myself that was just released by the journal, Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy.

We start the paper as follows:

Social issues in agriculture such as animal welfare and food insecurity pose two primary concerns: whether any action is going to be taken and, if it is, the extent to which action is taken in the private or public realm. Those who are concerned about animal welfare in conventional egg production can take private action by purchasing cage-free eggs, or they can encourage public action by voting for bans on the use of cages in egg production. Private action to mitigate food insecurity includes donating to food banks, while its public counterpart is government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

A summary of the study and findings:

This study explores the extent to which individuals will support public action but, in its absence, will not commit their own voluntary efforts. An internet survey was administered to over 3,500 individuals with hypothetical scenarios in which they could donate their own money toward a cause and/or support government action. When asked to choose between public or private action, most chose a combination of the two, suggesting that public and private partnerships are the preferred vehicle for solutions to social problems. Close to 20% indicated they would vote for laws to confront an issue but not contribute their own private donations.