Americans Have Been More Generous During COVID-19 Pandemic

Americans are more generous during covid-19 pandemic

New study finds that the presence of a threat impacted individual giving, behavior was not sensitive to threat level.

New study finds that Americans have become more generous during COVID. Contrary to some prior research showing a tendency toward self-interested behavior under threat, individuals have exhibited greater financial generosity when their county experienced the pandemic threat. The findings have significant societal implications and advance our understanding of economic and psychological theories of social preferences under threat.

Lead researcher Ariel Fridman and his team looked at the correlation between the presence of threat from the pandemic and generosity using data from Charity Navigator, the world’s largest independent charity evaluator. This first dataset consisted of actual charitable-giving data spanning over 4 years (July 2016 – December 2020) containing information on 696,942 individual donations. They also conducted a 6-month dictator game study in the earlier stage of the pandemic with 1003 participants.

“This work adds to our understanding of human behavior during times of crisis,” Fridman and his colleagues write. “Amidst the uncertainty, fear, and tragedy of the pandemic, we find a silver lining: people became more financially generous toward others in the presence of COVID-19 threat.”

“The CN data indicates contributions were directed primarily toward charities in the human services category—organizations that help mitigate the effects of COVID-19,” researches added. “Increased generosity often emerged in support of non-local organizations (CN data) or unidentified individuals (dictator game data).”

The question we now ask is: will Americans now remain generous? “While our work focuses on the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers conclude, “additional research is needed to understand the dynamics of the relationship between threat and generosity in the longer term, as well as once the crisis has ended.”