Study finds that Americans not as charitable as they were 10 years ago

Jan 2, 2017

New research by Texas A&M economists shows that Americans have become less charitable over the past 10 years.

As The Atlantic reports, researchers from Texas A&M found that Americans donate a smaller portion of their income to charity now, compared to a decade ago.

Some of the stinginess stems from the Great Recession that started in 2006, a period when personal incomes and wealth were slashed, but even as the economy started recovering, it seemed that Americans remained tight-fisted, according to the research.

13,000 people were asked about a range of topics on an annual basis between 2001 and 2013, allowing researchers to compare giving patterns before, during and after the Great Recession, while controlling factors like income, wealth, state of residence, the local housing market, race, gender and family size.

One of the findings was that 61 percent of households reported giving to charity during that time period and the proportion of those charitable donations increased every year until 2008, when the recession started.

Even though, by 2012, many had at least partially recovered from the recession, the likelihood of giving to charity continued to decrease, falling six percentage points compared to 2000.

Americans’ attitudes toward giving have changed regardless of their financial status, the research suggests, but there is some research that shows that people with less money, those who could actually benefit from charity themselves, are more likely to donate a greater proportion of their income. Overall, however, wealthier Americans contribute the most money. 

An explanation for the decline in charitable giving is a growing cynicism among Americans who feel their volunteer work and donation’s don’t make a difference in their communities.

A national community survey by the YMCA sheds some light on this sentiment. Respondents to the survey said their communities are not improving as much as expected and they believe that governments, businesses, churches and schools need to do more to help out.