Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It is more blessed to give than to receive: Scientific evidence

The philanthropy monitor Giving USA estimates that U.S. nonprofits and houses of worship received an amazing $316 billion in 2012.

More than 70% of those voluntary gifts were donated by individuals and families. Even though donations dropped sharply during the Great Recession and have yet to fully recover, Americans still give away more than the entire gross domestic product of prosperous countries such as Israel and Denmark. ...

American generosity is internationally exceptional and generally amazes foreigners, especially those from the social democracies across the Atlantic.

As a European acquaintance once asked me, "What's in it for you?" ...

The University of Chicago's General Social Survey shows that charitable givers are 43% likelier to say they are "very happy" than nongivers. Nongivers are a whopping 3.5 times more likely than givers to say they are "not happy at all."

Skeptics will question the causality here. Does charitable giving make us happier, vice versa or both? Experimental studies hold the answer. In 2008, researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia found that the amount subjects spent on themselves was inconsequential for happiness, while spending on others yielded significant happiness gains.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Oregon attached fMRI scanners to participants and asked them to divide $100 between a food pantry and their own wallets. Choosing charity lighted up the nucleus accumbens, a brain center of pleasure and reward that also corresponds to pleasurable music, addictive drugs, and the bond between mothers and their children.
--Arthur Brooks, WSJ, on Acts 20:35 demonstrated