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Data from a recent ?eld experiment suggests that differences in participation rates are responsible for much of the variations in revenues across formats in charity auctions. We provide a theoretical framework for the analysis of this, and other related, results. The model illustrates the limits of previous "?xed" results and introduces some new considerations to the choice of auction mechanism. It also implies, however, that the data cannot be explained in terms of participation costs alone: there must exist mechanism-speci?c obstacles to participation.

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