Has the Covid-19 pandemic made people more generous?

During overwhelming crises such as wars, natural disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic, two contradictory behaviors can emerge – far more selfishness or generosity. In a new study published in Scientific Reports, Researchers found that US residents showed “disaster compassion” with greater financial generosity during the ongoing pandemic.

Data collected from 35 countries early in the Covid-19 pandemic showed that despite government appeals, people who felt threatened were more likely to resort to panic buying and stockpiling essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

But on the bright side, the perceived threat of a larger crisis could potentially fuel the expansion of social connections. For example, a survey conducted by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy during the COVID-19 pandemic found that nearly half of respondents supported their communities by continuing to pay individuals and businesses for services that could not be provided.

To better understand whether extreme selfishness or generosity prevails as communities survive multiple crises, Ariel Fridman and colleagues examined two longitudinal datasets. The first dataset was compiled by a charity evaluator called Charity Navigator, which provided data on 696,942 charitable donations between July 2016 and December 2020 in the United States. For each donation, the data included the amount donated, the charities benefiting, the category assigned to each charity (e.g., environment and human services), and the location of the donor.

The second dataset included 1,003 US participants who played a game in which a person assigned the role of a dictator decided how to split US$10 between themselves and a random partner. The game was played 6 times from March 2020 to August 2020. Researchers calculated Covid threats based on daily deaths by county.

“Previous work suggests that people experiencing such financial scarcity may engage in extreme, even immoral, behaviors to attain financial wealth,” the researchers wrote. “Nevertheless, analysis of our two datasets clearly shows that, on average, individuals were more willing to part with their financial resources in these unique circumstances.”

In both datasets, the team found that 78% of counties facing Covid threats increased total donation amount in March 2020 compared to March 2019. Counties that did not face threats during the pandemic increased their donations by 55% over the same period last year. Similar results were obtained in April 2020 compared to April 2019. On average, county-level donations increased 31.6% for low threat, 28.5% for medium threat, and 32.9% for high threat compared to no threat. Those who donated more than once were also more likely to donate to charities.

In the Dictator game, donations increased by 8.6% for low threat, 13.1% for medium threat, and 8.3% for high threat compared to no threat. Interestingly, while the presence of pandemic-related threats was associated with increased generosity overall, the magnitude of threats had little impact on donations.

“The increased generosity observed in both datasets is particularly intriguing given experts’ predictions, based on historical data, that the economic downturn caused by the pandemic would result in reduced giving, and the fact that a record majority of Americans reported a worsening financial situation.” over the same period,” the researchers noted. “Individuals may have been motivated to give more when experiencing threat as a result of increased feelings of sympathy, a desire to regain a sense of agency and self-efficacy, mortality salience, or simply experiencing positive emotions (warm glow) during a stressful period .”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.