Dr David Reinstein
Senior Lecturer in Economics
+44 (0) 1392 726259
Streatham Court, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4PU, UK
David Reinstein joined the University of Exeter Business School as a Senior Lecturer in Economics in January 2016. Originally from the USA, David earned his undergraduate degree in Economics at George Washington University. He completed his PhD dissertation under the supervision of Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley in 2006. From 2006-2015 he worked at the University of Essex, where he was granted permanency in 2012. In addition to his active teaching role and research agenda, David was instrumental in helping found the ESSExLab, introducing an oral presentation to the undergraduate curriculum, and creating a joint degree scheme with SKKU Seoul Global Economics.
David’s research is concerned with the determinants and consequences of other-regarding preferences in market and non-market settings, and with the relationship between incomplete information, anonymity, social trust, and other-regarding behaviour. He has addressed a wide variety of specific topics, including charitable giving and other-regarding behaviour, social influences on giving, anonymous contributions to public goods, and the impact of tangible money on decision-making. He employs a robust set of tools, including lab and field experiments, economic theory, and econometric analysis of observational data. David has obtained research support from the British Academy and Data Without Boundaries.
David is actively pursuing an impact and knowledge-exchange agenda. He is eager to engage and collaborate with businesses, non-profits, fundraisers, policymakers, and journalists.
Nationality: American and British
Ph.D., Economics, University of California (Berkeley). Bachelors of Science, Economics, George Washington University
- Behaviour, Identity and Decisions
- Firms, Markets and Value
- Business, Institutions and Policy
- Sustainability & Circular Economy
- Other-regarding behaviour and charitable giving
- Public Economics
- Behavioural Economics
My research considers altruism, charitable giving, social and psychological influences, life choices, and consumer behaviour. I combine economic modelling, analysis of observational data, and lab and field experiments to answer a variety of interconnected questions, and build innovative policy and management tools.
Does one contribution come at the expense of another?
With the large number of worthy causes appealing for our funds, it is impossible to donate to them all. But when a particular convincing fundraiser talks us into donating to one cause, does this lead us to give less to others? Are we merely “robbing Peter to pay Paul”? In several papers and ongoing projects I seek to measure to what extent being induced to donate to one charity will affect donations to existing unrelated charities.
Are people more generous from ‘future bonuses’?
If you won a $100 million in the lottery, how much of it would you give to charity? How much do you think you should give? Can we commit you now to state an amount to be automatically deducted from your prize? Or would it be better to wait until after you won, and ask you then? Which would be more effective?
Intuition as well as prominent behavioural models predict that people will be more generous with ‘bonus income’ and unexpected windfalls than with ‘regular income’. Similarly, they will be more generous in committing income that they have not yet earned, and may not earn, than with money they already have in their pocket. Our recent evidence, from lab and field experiments, supports this. I am proposing a project of knowledge co-production: I aim to work with banks, investment firms and fundraisers to test our previous findings in high-stakes field experiments involving bonuses, and to explore the usefulness of this concept for financial products.
Does anonymity build group trust?
Have you ever been at a restaurant with a group of friends where you each offer to pay the amount you feel you owe? In such a case some members of the party may attempt to free ride off the others. This leads us to the question, how much can we trust our friends? In this paper we attempt to answer this question by providing a system that allows members of a party to learn each others willingness to pay. This allows ‘free riders’ to reveal this fact without any form of independent social stigma. This will lead to a greater level of cooperation amongst individuals, as people better understand how much they can trust those around them.
Does fear of ‘losing face’ keep us from making valuable partnerships
Rejection hurts, and there is a particular sting in letting another person know you are interested, only to be turned down. The desire to avoid this pain and possible loss of reputation makes people reluctant to express their interest in others. Thus, in the areas of romance, business, and friendship, we avoid making overtures to potential partners even in cases where, as it turns out, the other party feels the same way. In this paper we provide a solution to this problem by suggesting that people should only be aware of each others’ level of interest in the proposition when both individuals say ‘yes’. This can lead to more matches between individuals without either party having to suffer a rejection.
What is the value of an ‘elite degree?
While many tout higher education as the key to success in the modern economy, we have very little clean evidence on the individual and social returns to a particular degree. In the UK, elite universities are moving towards higher and higher fees, but we have no ironclad proof that they offer students a “leg up” in the job world. Comparing a typical Oxford maths graduate and a typical school-leaver, it seems unlikely that their different life outcomes stem only from their different educational paths. Thus, labour economists who look to estimate the returns to education are eager for randomised trials where education is administered by lot. While such pure randomised trials are typically seen as a pipe dream, such a lottery actually exists in the Netherlands, and it has been around since 1970. We are using this lottery, tied to extremely rich detailed administrative data, to answer the question ‘do people really benefit from getting into their first-choice university?’
Current research activity
Ongoing projects include:
- “Does one Contribution Come at the Expense of Another?” Expenditure substitution in Charitable Giving (Funded by British Academy Small Grant)
- “Give if you Win” -- Conditional generosity and uncertain income: Lab and field evidence
- Joint with Christian Kellner (Bonn) and Gerhard Riener (Dusseldorf/Mannheim)
- Pursuing impact funding for further engagement with financial institutions, fundraisers and policymakers
- “Who gains (more) from getting her top university?” -- Evidence from a Dutch admissions lottery
- Joint with Matthias Parey (Essex) and Nathan Vellekoop (Frankfurt)
- Grants from Data Without Boundaries and ADR strategic research budget
- “Fear of Losing Face: A barrier to efficient partnering”
- Joint with Thomas Gall (Southampton)
- “The Government May Want to Encourage Price Discrimination by Income.”
- “Exclude the Bad Actors or Learn About the Group” with David Hugh-Jones (UEA).
- “Listen to the Market, Hear the Best Policy Decision, but Don’t Always Choose it” with Joon Song (SKKU)
Publications by category
Publications by year
Awards and Honours
- 2015 British Academy Small Research Grant
- 2012 Data Without Borders grant
- April 2010 British Academy Small Research Grant
July 2007 British Academy Small Research Grant. “Experimental Evidence on Charitable Giving; Substitution and Social Influences”
- Editorial Board: Scientific Data (Nature)
Invited seminars at institutions/conferences including:
- University of Southern California
- EC-JRC Vaccination Workshop (Ispra)
- SKKU Seoul, FUR conference, APET conference,
- SUNY Albany
- UC Santa Barbara
- Cal State SLO
- University of Queensland
- University of New South Wales
- ESRC “Generosity and Well-Being” Workshop 2013
- British Academy “Nudge and Beyond” Conference
- University of Oxford
- Workshop on the Determinants and Implications of Prosocial Behavior (Southampton)
- University of St. Andrews,
- IAREP workshop (Kent)
- University of Amsterdam
- University of Nottingham
- Erasmus University
- ESI Workshop (Max Planck)
- Warwick University
- University of Bristol (CMPO)
- University of Guanajuato
- University of San Francisco
- UC Berkeley,
- University of East Anglia
- Bocconi University
A motivated student can learn a great deal from textbooks, online videos, etc. What, then is my role as a ‘real life’ university teacher?
- To engage with students, motivate them, and provide continuous interaction and feedback.
- To understand their strengths and weaknesses, and the specific ways their minds work.
- By grasping their thought process, I can determine where they may be getting stuck and help find better ways they can learn from their mistakes and more deeply understand the key concepts.
- To motivate students to cultivate and show off their talents and ideas. This can lead to a strong academic or professional letter of reference.
- To expose students to the cutting-edge of research, to highly relevant up-to-date real world applications, and to the difficult and often unresolved questions of economics.
- To emphasize the importance of building strong professional and academic skills. These include clear, logical and critical thinking and writing, numeracy, and an understanding of real-world facts and institutions.