The Worse The Pandemic, The More Generously Americans Donated to Others – to Record Level

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Individuals in the USA showed greater financial generosity when under threat from COVID-19, according to new research.

The researchers used the world’s largest tracker of financial charity from the years leading up to and then proceeding into the pandemic, while also conducting controlled experimental games. Both inquiries found that the pandemic made Americans more generous with their capital.

Lead author Ariel Fridman and colleagues examined the relationship between the presence of threat from COVID-19 and generosity, first using a dataset, provided by Charity Navigator, the world’s largest independent charity evaluator. This first dataset consisted of actual charitable-giving data spanning July 2016 through December 2020, and contained various information on 696,942 individual donations.

This dataset found that 78% of U.S. counties with a COVID-19 threat increased the total amount donated in March 2020 compared to March 2019. Even more encouraging, the charitable amounts increased the most when the degree of danger from the virus was highest: 32.9% under high threat vs 28.5% under medium threat compared to no threat.

The second data set of 1,000 people came from a controlled experiment using the “dictator game” in which one player (the dictator) receives $10 and makes a unilateral decision on how to divide it between themselves and a stranger.

Normally, across the many uses of this game in social science research, the dictator almost always gives a portion of it to the stranger, but evaluated over the same timespan as the Charity Navigator dataset, Fridman et al. found that dictators were almost 10% more generous with their $10 stake after COVID-19 arrived in the individual’s country.

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