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When I post a question with a bounty, the question generally captures more votes, and I get more rep than I would have otherwise.

In cases where I've offered less than 150 (100 from me, 50 from SO) bounty, I've generally received that reputation back in upvotes.

In other words, by and large, it's free to post bounties with less than 100 of my own rep in the bounty.

Does the SO data dump contain enough information to figure out the site-wide average where a bounty is 'free'?

It would require data on when various votes were given (ie, votes before adding the bounty wouldn't count), the amount of the bounty, etc.

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I've observed the same behavior. I haven't posted a bountied question on SO but on SU and SF, this happened to me. I can't generalize though as it was on the early days of those sites. – xmm0 Jan 18 '10 at 19:48
I suspect that reducing the points gained by upvoted questions will change this somewhat. – Andrew Grimm Jun 11 '10 at 0:15
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Using Data Explorer, I found you'll get about 25 extra rep (score 4.9 higher) on average:

  1. Date of first bounty
    (The average question score changes over time, so we want to compare only on the same date range)
  2. Average score for bounty questions asked since date in (1)
  3. Average Score for non-bounty questions asked since the date in (1)
  4. Take the difference between (3) and (2).

I could write that all as one query, but this was easier.

Note that when I ran the same set of queries a few years back, the results where significantly different. You can model the difference over time by running the queries with different restrictions on the max post CreationDate.

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That's an interesting way to measure it. Thanks! – Adam Davis Jan 18 '10 at 20:01
A problem with this method is its assumption that questions eventually bountied have the same quality distribution as questions never bountied which is probably not the case. Also, your "extra rep" computation includes even any rep accummulated on a question before the first bounty on it was offered. – Jirka Hanika Mar 18 '13 at 7:59
I could also exclude bounties where the original date of the question precedes the first bounty... but in the end you have to aggregate it somewhere. – Joel Coehoorn Mar 19 '13 at 21:47

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