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Nathan W. Chan - University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst, MA, US

Nathan W. Chan

Associate Professor of Resource Economics | University of Massachusetts Amherst


Nathan Chan uses economic methods to examine challenges in environmental management and energy policy

Expertise (6)

Charitable Giving

Environmental Management

Environmental Public Goods

Climate Change Mitigation

Nonmarket Valuation

Pollution Control


Nathan Chan uses economic methods to examine challenges in environmental management and energy policy, with a primary focus on environmental public goods.

His research finding that donors who feel upbeat are more likely to give to charity garnered widespread national attention including in The Washington Post, Fortune and U.S. News and World Report.

Social Media

Education (3)

Yale University: Ph.D., Environmental & Natural Resource Economics

Columbia University: M.P.A., Environmental Science & Policy

Caltech: B.S., Engineering & Applied Science, English

Select Media Coverage (2)

People who donate to charity seem to have one thing in common

Quartz  online


“There’s a large amount of literature investigating whether being charitable makes people happier, or whether being happier makes people more charitable. Our paper offers new evidence for the latter,” said Chan in a news post on the UMass Amherst website. The study may be the first of its kind documenting the philanthropic “preheating” phenomenon outside of a controlled environment.

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UMass prof finds ‘being happier makes people more charitable’ in new research

MassLive  online


New research shows that positive moods produce greater generosity. Nathan Chan, associate professor of resource economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Casey Wichman, assistant professor in Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Economics, discovered this connection by analyzing millions of tweets posted by thousands of people who donated to Wikipedia over the course of six months.

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Select Publications (6)

Donors who feel upbeat are more likely to give to charity

The Conversation

Nathan W. Chan and Casey Wichman


When people feel happier, they’re more likely to donate to charity. That’s what we, two economists who study what motivates environmentally conscientious consumption and support for free services, found in a new study published in The Economic Journal.

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Preheating Prosocial Behaviour

The Economic Journal

Casey J Wichman and Nathan W Chan


We provide new evidence on motivations for voluntary contributions to public goods in a natural setting. Using natural-language processing on users’ Twitter posts, we measure revealed sentiment changes before and after making a donation to Wikipedia. We find strong evidence that sentiment improves in the hour and minutes directly before contributing, which we call ‘preheating.’ Results are robust to alternative fixed effects and approaches to inference, and supported by a complementary online experiment with randomised mood inducement among Twitter users. Preheating suggests that affective states influence giving, in addition to reward-seeking, utility-maximising behaviour that has been documented in other contexts.

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The effects of climate change on outdoor recreation participation in the United States: Projections for the 21st century

Weather, Climate, and Society

Nathan Chan et al


Climate change is expected to impact individuals’ recreational choices, as changing temperatures and precipitation patterns influence participation in outdoor recreation and alternative activities. This paper empirically investigates the relationship between weather and outdoor recreation using nationally representative data from the contiguous United States. We find that across most outdoor recreational activities, participation is lowest on the coldest days (

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On consumer incentives for energy-efficient durables

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management

2023 Environmental policies often regulate energy-using durable goods rather than targeting externalities directly. How should such indirect policies be set? In this paper, we model the impact of efficiency incentives (EIs) on consumer behavior and analyze the normative implications of these policies in settings with internalities and externalities. We elucidate how the conditionally-optimal EI depends upon key empirical values and we also demonstrate how EIs can be paired with auxiliary policies to achieve optimality across various settings. Our analysis pinpoints the importance of the rebound effect in determining the net impact of the EI on externalities.

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Reciprocity with stochastic loss

Journal of the Economic Science Association

2023 We introduce stochastic loss into a gift exchange game to study how information on intentions affects reciprocity. In one treatment, the respondent observes the amount received and whether a loss occurred, so both the consequential outcome and the sender’s original intention are known. In the other two treatments, information about whether a loss occurred is hidden, and the respondent is only informed of the amount received (outcome) or the amount initially sent (intention). Using both regression-based approaches and non-parametric tests, we find greater reciprocity in the two treatments that reveal intentions. These differences arise even in a simple one-shot setting without reputational benefits and are economically meaningful; they are similar in magnitude to the difference attributable to a full point reduction in the amount received

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Is Grass Greener in the Gray Zone? Legalization and Innovation in the Cannabis Market


2023 This paper studies the impact of legalization on the rate and direction of innovation in the cannabis market. We construct novel data on cannabis-related innovation in clinical trials and patent applications. Using staggered difference-in-differences models utilizing the variation in state legalization of medical and adult-use cannabis, we find no evidence that medical cannabis laws affect innovation. Adult-use cannabis laws increase trials and patenting, especially patenting in downstream products and methods rather than upstream chemical or treatment innovation. These results suggest that legalization increases innovation in the cannabis market, but not naturally and not enough for where innovation matters the most.

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