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Social and Demographic Factors That Influence Charitable Giving

Social and Demographic Factors That Influence Charitable Giving

Demographics and social connections – how trusting people are and whether they have close relationships with others – significantly influence charitable giving, according to a study by University of Arkansas researchers. The findings could help guide philanthropies as they seek donations from individuals.

Patricia Herzog

Song Yang

The study, written by assistant professor Patricia Snell Herzog and professor Song Yang, both from the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, was published in the journal Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. Analyzing previously collected survey data, Herzong and Yang  found that certain demographics were linked to higher levels of charitable giving. Women, people with higher household incomes and those who attend religious services regularly were more likely to give. The study also found that Democrats were more likely to give than people with other political affiliations, as were older people and those with a college degree.

The two social variables Herzog and Yang studied were “trust” and “contacts.” Social trust is a measure of how respondents answered the statement, “Generally speaking, most people can be trusted,” on a scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Social contacts is a measure of how many adults respondents had a close relationship within the last year.

On those measures, researchers found that respondents with higher levels of social trust were more likely to give, but trust alone was not the full explanation. Social contacts were more strongly linked to giving; however, the researchers found it was the fact that respondents had any close social contacts, not the number of those contacts, that better predicted being a giver. Most importantly, the most consistent explanation across all models was that respondents whose social contacts gave to charity had a higher chance of giving themselves.

In 2015, individuals gave $229 billion to charities, the paper noted, a figure that far exceeds levels of 30 years ago. Understanding why people give helps philanthropic organizations become more effective at fundraising, the paper noted. Herzog and Yang said, “These findings indicate that targeting individuals may not be as effective as strategies that seek to increase giving through network ties.”

About The Author

Bob Whitby writes about bioscience, geoscience, physics, space and planetary sciences, psychology and sociology. Reach him at 479-575-4737, or

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