Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Dr. James R. Alm

Second Advisor

Dr. Sally Wallace

Third Advisor

Dr. C. Monica Capra

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Yongsheng Xu

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation is to identify the impact of moral emotions (sympathy and empathy) and religious education on individual behavior. This dissertation is divided into three main chapters. The first chapter examines the effect of sympathy and empathy on tax compliance. We run a series of experiments in which we employ methods such as priming, the Davis Empathic Concern scale, and questions about frequency of prosocial behaviors in the past year in order to promote and to identify empathy and sympathy in subjects. We observe the subjects’ decisions in a series of one-shot tax compliance game presented at once and with no immediate feedback. Our results suggest that the presence and/or the promotion of sympathy in most cases encourage tax compliance. The second chapter takes into consideration religious schooling as a way of helping the development of religiosity or morality on individuals. Our intent is to investigate the effect of religious education on charitable donations in adulthood. Our empirical analysis is based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics dataset. Our estimation results indicate that there is a positive effect of religious education on donations to secular and religious organizations. The third chapter explores the hypothesis that sympathetic individuals are more likely to support income redistribution because they believe that the poor may benefit from this policy. We use data from the General Social Survey to estimate support for income distribution. Our results suggest that some measures of sympathy have a positive effect on support for redistribution.

Across all three main chapters, we find that sympathy has mostly small and positive effects on the types of behavior examined in this dissertation, although we are not able to determine the impact of religious education on charitable donations. Despite the sometimes weak results of this research caused by the limitations of the available data and the complexity of the issues studied, we believe that the development of these moral emotions is likely to generate benefits to society.

Included in

Economics Commons

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