Unemployment and digital public goods contribution

Michael Kummer, Olga Slivko, Xiaoquan (Michael) Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Economic crises often result in massive job loss. However, although reduced employment has been shown to have many negative consequences for the affected individuals, it may also push them into new activities, such as provision of service to their communities. In this paper, we show how individuals engage in socially useful activities after an increase in unemployment. Specifically we document increased online content generation at Wikipedia, the world's largest user generated knowledge repository. Leveraging German district-level and European country-level unemployment data we analyze the relationship between the economic crisis in 2008-2010 and contributions to Wikipedia. For both data sets we find increased socially valuable activity in the form of knowledge acquisition and contributions to Wikipedia. For German districts, we observe an increased rate of content generation on Wikipedia in districts that faced greater increases in unemployment. The effect of unemployment on content generation is even stronger at the European country level. Our findings suggest that public goods provision increases as a positive side effect of economic crises.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-819
Number of pages19
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2020


  • Online platform
  • Public goods
  • Unemployment
  • User-generated content
  • Wikipedia

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