U.S. Tops Charitable Giving Rankings Despite Rich-Poor Divide

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When it comes to being charitable, some countries' citizens are much more generous than others, and views on inequality are a pretty dependable indicator of how generous.

A study published online in the Journal of Consumer Research in March found that people who live in countries that promote equality are more likely to donate money.

"I've done a lot of research on charitable donations ... but my colleague (study co-author Yinglong Zhang) didn't readily agree that what I thought would occur in the U.S. would be the same in China, so we thought there may be differences across culture," says Karen Page Winterich, an assistant professor of marketing at Penn State University and co-author of the study.

Even though 28% of the world's population donates money and more than 18% volunteers their time, charitable behavior varies widely across countries. For instance, only 10% of people in China and Russia donate money, compared with 60% of citizens in Australia and Canada. In India, only 10% of the population volunteers their time, while in the U.S. that figure is 40%.

But Winterich and Zhang weren't interested only in statistical trends in giving, but in the underlying motivations behind donating or volunteering.

To do this, they took statistical trends in charitable giving by nation and compared them with existing surveys and research on cultures that gauged people's "power distance belief" -- that is, the levels in which people expect or accept inequality. They also conducted their own survey of citizens in the U.S. and India to assess how much time or money participants devoted to charity and under what circumstances.

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