Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Distribution of Generosity

Christian Smith, a sociologist at Notre Dame, has been reporting the results of a large Science of Generosity project.  Sociology is particularly useful for giving us a sense of proportion of how phenomena are distributed in a large population.

Americans as a whole are generous people.  We give away huge amounts of money for good causes.

However, nearly half of Americans - 45% - give nothing.

The high standard of tithing (giving at least 10%) is met by only 3%.

Poorer people give away a higher proportion of their income than richer people do.

Looked at another way, 57% of all the charitable dollars in America are contributed by the 5% of Americans who are most generous.

And I should note that the main point of The Paradox of Generosity, by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, is that people who give more away lead happier and healthier lives.


Charles Martel said...

Very interesting. Thanks.
It is an interesting, but not surprising, fact that poorer people give the greater percentage of their wealth than the wealthy.

Link to the book:

Part of the description:
"This wealth of evidence reveals a consistent link between demonstrating generosity and leading a better life: more generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression. Smith and Davidson also show, however, that to achieve a better life a person must practice generosity regularly-random acts of kindness are not enough."

Gruntled said...

Yes - Aristotle is right that a happy life comes from habits, not one-off acts of will.

John said...

The other statistic of interest is income. There is at least some data that suggests that $70,000 is when donating money has more of an impact on happiness. It would be interesting to see if there is an inflection point around there. Thanks for the post. I find tithing, and its relative lack at higher incomes, interesting.