A study that will appear in the Journal of Consumer Research concludes that one sex is much more likely than the other to give to local causes, such as Katrina victims (“ingroups”), as compared to overseas ones, such as Indian Ocean tsumani victims (“outgroups”). Also, a person’s moral identity–that is, how important fairness and generosity is to that person, which is not necessarily reflected in that person’s own behavior–dictates where his or her charity dollars will go.
Any guesses as to which sex does what? According to the study:
[I]f you’re a man, you’re more likely to give to the person closest to you–that is, the one in your neighborhood–if you give at all.
If you’re a woman, you’re more likely to give–and to give equal amounts to both groups.
n the study, participants completed a survey to gauge their moral identity. Later, each was given five $1 bills and three options: keep the cash, give it to a Hurricane Katrina relief fund, or give it to a relief fund for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
The results were very consistent. Women with higher moral identity were more likely to split their dollars evenly between the two charities. Women with lower moral identities gave more to the ingroup (Katrina victims).
Men with high moral identities gave to the ingroup, but seldom to the outgroup (tsunami victims). Men with low moral identities pocketed the cash.
The researchers were also pleasantly surprised at how likely people on the whole were to give, period. Then again, anyone can be generous with money that isn’t really theirs.
For my part, I donated fairly heavily (by my standards) to the American Red Cross after Katrina and have donated here and there to other domestic causes, but in spite of all of the heart-rending TV commercials about sick and hungry children in Africa and Asia, I have never donated to a charity benefiting people overseas. I can’t say this has been a conscious move, but in any event, I as a single data point appear to suport, or conform to, the results of this study.