When the Patina of Empirical Respectability Wears off: Motivational Crowding and Kidney Sales

  • Luke SemrauEmail author


An increasingly common objection to kidney sales holds that the introduction of monetary incentives may undermine potential donors’ altruism, discourage donation, and possibly result in a net reduction in the supply of kidneys. To explain why incentives might be counterproductive in this way market opponents marshal evidence from behavioral economics. In particular, they claim that the context of kidney sales is ripe for motivational crowding. This reasoning, if sound, would have a profound influence on the debate over kidney sales. What’s perhaps the principal reason to favor a market – the increase in supply it would bring – would be called into doubt. However, on inspection it becomes apparent that the evidence touted by market opponents not only lends no credence to their claims, but also provides some positive reason to doubt them. The near-ubiquitous references to motivational crowding in the literature on kidney sales are fundamentally misplaced.


Organ sales Altruism Motivation Markets 



For constructive feedback I thank Andrew T. Forcehimes, Peter Jaworski, Magdi Semrau, participants of the workshop at the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics, and two anonymous reviewers for this journal.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McDonough School of BusinessGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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