Group size and incentives to contribute: a natural experiment at Chinese Wikipedia

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Group size and incentives to contribute: a natural experiment at Chinese Wikipedia
Authors: Xiaoquan Michael Zhang, Feng Zhu [edit item]
Citation: American Economic Review 101 (4): 1601-1615. 2011 June.
Publication type: Journal article
Peer-reviewed: Yes
Database(s):
DOI: 10.1257/aer.101.4.1601.
Google Scholar cites: Citations
Link(s): Paper link
Added by Wikilit team: Added on initial load
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Group size and incentives to contribute: a natural experiment at Chinese Wikipedia is a publication by Xiaoquan Michael Zhang, Feng Zhu.


[edit] Abstract

The literature on the private provision of public goods suggests an inverse relationship between incentives to contribute and group size. We find, however, that after an exogenous reduction of group size at Chinese Wikipedia, the nonblocked contributors decrease their contributions by 42.8 percent on average. We attribute the cause to social effects: contributors receive social benefits that increase with both the amount of their contributions and group size, and the shrinking group size weakens these social benefits. Consistent with our explanation, we find that the more contributors value social benefits, the more they reduce their contributions after the block.

[edit] Research questions

"In this paper, we examine the causal relationship between group size and incentives to contribute in the setting of ChineseWikipedia, the Chinese language version of an online encyclopedia that relies entirely on voluntary contributions. The group at Chinese Wikipedia is composed of Chinese-speaking people in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other regions in the world, who are aware of Chinese Wikipedia and have access to it. Our identification hinges on the exogenous reduction in group size at Chinese Wikipedia as a result of the block of Chinese Wikipedia in mainland China in October 2005. During the block, mainland Chinese could not use or contribute to Chinese Wikipedia, although contributors outside mainland China could continue to do so. We contribute to the literature by examining the causal relationship between group size and individual-level contribution using field data. Our study provides empirical evidence that social effects indeed dominate free-riding incentives in a setting with a large group size, and thus highlights the importance of social effects in public good provisions."

Research details

Topics: Contributor motivation, Societal antecedents of participation [edit item]
Domains: Economics [edit item]
Theory type: Analysis [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Main topic [edit item]
Theories: "Economic theories suggest that free riding is a concern in these

contexts. In this paper, we utilize an exogenous shock on the group size ofWikipedia participants to study how incentives to contribute change with group size at the individual level." [edit item]

Research design: Statistical analysis [edit item]
Data source: Wikipedia pages [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: Longitudinal [edit item]
Unit of analysis: Article, Edit [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: Live Wikipedia [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: Article [edit item]
Wikipedia language: Chinese [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"Private provision of public goods is greatly valued by society. In 2007, 60.8 million volunteers, or about 26 percent of Americans age 16 or older, performed 8.1 billion hours of unpaid service to community organizations.19 Economic theories suggest that free riding is a concern in these contexts. In this paper, we utilize an exogenous shock on the group size of Wikipedia participants to study how incentives to contribute change with group size at the individual level. We find a positive relationship between group size and contributors’ contribution levels. In addition, we find that contributors who are likely to care more about social benefits react to the change more strongly than those who value them less. Recognition of such social effects helps explain the existence of many public goods with a large number of contributors and the empirical observation that many contributors prefer to contribute to large online communities. Two limitations of this study are important to emphasize. Our study only examines a particular kind of public goods. OnWikipedia, contributors are at the same time users ofWikipedia, and the more contributors, the greater the quality of the good and thus the greater the number of users and contributors. While many public goods today (e.g., public radio stations, open source software and YouTube) share similar features, there are many other types of public goods. For example, contributors to disaster relief funds are often not at the same time beneficiaries of the funds. In addition,Wikipedia is an online public good. Whether we can generalize these results to different types of public goods provision is an interesting question for future research. The second limitation is related to the broad definition of “social effects.” Similar to many prior studies on social effects (e.g., Charles F. Manski 1993; Andreoni and Ragan Petrie 2004), we do not distinguish different motivations that give rise to social effects. This limitation largely results from the fact that different social motivations could lead to similar behavioral patterns. Future studies could seek to understand the relative importance of different motivations."

[edit] Comments

"social effects indeed dominate free-riding incentives in a setting with a large group size, and thus positively affects participation."


Further notes[edit]

Facts about "Group size and incentives to contribute: a natural experiment at Chinese Wikipedia"RDF feed
AbstractThe literature on the private provision ofThe literature on the private provision of public goods suggests an inverse relationship between incentives to contribute and group size. We find, however, that after an exogenous reduction of group size at Chinese Wikipedia, the nonblocked contributors decrease their contributions by 42.8 percent on average. We attribute the cause to social effects: contributors receive social benefits that increase with both the amount of their contributions and group size, and the shrinking group size weakens these social benefits. Consistent with our explanation, we find that the more contributors value social benefits, the more they reduce their contributions after the block.educe their contributions after the block.
Added by wikilit teamAdded on initial load +
Collected data time dimensionLongitudinal +
Commentssocial effects indeed dominate free-riding incentives in a setting with a large group size, and thus positively affects participation.
ConclusionPrivate provision of public goods is greatPrivate provision of public goods is greatly valued by society. In 2007, 60.8 million volunteers,

or about 26 percent of Americans age 16 or older, performed 8.1 billion hours of unpaid service to community organizations.19 Economic theories suggest that free riding is a concern in these contexts. In this paper, we utilize an exogenous shock on the group size of Wikipedia participants to study how incentives to contribute change with group size at the individual level. We find a positive relationship between group size and contributors’ contribution levels. In addition, we find that contributors who are likely to care more about social benefits react to the change more strongly than those who value them less. Recognition of such social effects helps explain the existence of many public goods with a large number of contributors and the empirical observation that many contributors prefer to contribute to large online communities. Two limitations of this study are important to emphasize. Our study only examines a particular kind of public goods. OnWikipedia, contributors are at the same time users ofWikipedia, and the more contributors, the greater the quality of the good and thus the greater the number of users and contributors. While many public goods today (e.g., public radio stations, open source software and YouTube) share similar features, there are many other types of public goods. For example, contributors to disaster relief funds are often not at the same time beneficiaries of the funds. In addition,Wikipedia is an online public good. Whether we can generalize these results to different types of public goods provision is an interesting question for future research. The second limitation is related to the broad definition of “social effects.” Similar to many prior studies on social effects (e.g., Charles F. Manski 1993; Andreoni and Ragan Petrie 2004), we do not distinguish different motivations that give rise to social effects. This limitation largely results from the fact that different social motivations could lead to similar behavioral patterns.

Future studies could seek to understand the relative importance of different motivations.
ative importance of different motivations.
Data sourceWikipedia pages +
Doi10.1257/aer.101.4.1601 +
Google scholar urlhttp://scholar.google.com/scholar?ie=UTF-8&q=%22Group%2Bsize%2Band%2Bincentives%2Bto%2Bcontribute%3A%2Ba%2Bnatural%2Bexperiment%2Bat%2BChinese%2BWikipedia%22 +
Has authorXiaoquan Michael Zhang + and Feng Zhu +
Has domainEconomics +
Has topicContributor motivation + and Societal antecedents of participation +
Issue4 +
MonthJune +
Pages1601-1615 +
Peer reviewedYes +
Publication typeJournal article +
Published inAmerican Economic Review +
Research designStatistical analysis +
Research questionsIn this paper, we examine the causal relatIn this paper, we examine the causal relationship between group size and incentives to contribute

in the setting of ChineseWikipedia, the Chinese language version of an online encyclopedia that relies entirely on voluntary contributions. The group at Chinese Wikipedia is composed of Chinese-speaking people in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other regions in the world, who are aware of Chinese Wikipedia and have access to it. Our identification hinges on the exogenous reduction in group size at Chinese Wikipedia as a result of the block of Chinese Wikipedia in mainland China in October 2005. During the block, mainland Chinese could not use or contribute to Chinese Wikipedia, although contributors outside mainland China could continue to do so. We contribute to the literature by examining the causal relationship between group size and individual-level contribution using field data. Our study provides empirical evidence that social effects indeed dominate free-riding incentives in a setting with a large group size, and thus

highlights the importance of social effects in public good provisions.
social effects in public good provisions.
Revid11,142 +
TheoriesEconomic theories suggest that free riding is a concern in these contexts. In this paper, we utilize an exogenous shock on the group size ofWikipedia participants to study how incentives to contribute change with group size at the individual level.
Theory typeAnalysis +
TitleGroup size and incentives to contribute: a natural experiment at Chinese Wikipedia
Unit of analysisArticle + and Edit +
Urlhttp://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1021450 +
Volume101 +
Wikipedia coverageMain topic +
Wikipedia data extractionLive Wikipedia +
Wikipedia languageChinese +
Wikipedia page typeArticle +
Year2011 +