Are Women Really More Charitable Than Men?

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There’s always been an assumption that women are more charitable than men. So to see if this was true, I went to none other than the fabulous Marjorie Clayman for answers. Margie Clayman is the Director of Client Development at Clayman Advertising, her family’s full-service marketing firm, where she represents the 3rd generation. Be sure to check out her blog!

People who know me know that generally speaking, I distrust and dislike generalizations. Generalizations are the breeding ground for damaging stereotypes, pigeonholing, and other such negative activities. So, when the divine Ifdy Perez asked me if I would study why women are more charitable than men, my first reaction was, “Well, that doesn’t seem like it could be true.”

Sometimes generalizations exist because they are founded on pure, 100% statistical information, as it turns out.

Back in 2010, a study, aptly called Women Give 2010, revealed that women actually are more likely than men to give to a charity. On December 12, 2011, published a report building upon this research. This report uncovered why women tend to support specific not-for-profit organizations. According to

  • Personal experience with the cause influences 82% of women and 73% of men
  • The NPO’s ability to communicate influences 46% of women versus 32% of men
  • The study also indicates that while women may strategize every year before giving, men tend to donate to the same causes year after year

So what is going on here?

On October 21, 2010, an article in USA Today reflecting on the Women Give 2010 results posited that women are simply socialized as caregivers (and pretty much always have been). An article in Time Magazine reflecting on the same study uncovered more details:

  • Women are 55% more likely to donate to international causes than men
  • Women are 42% more like to donate to religious organizations
  • Women are 32% more likely to give to youth and family groups

The article from USA Today and the article from Time seem to come to the same conclusion: women are more enmeshed in childcare and family life than men. If women give to causes to which they can relate, it makes sense that women would donate more to causes that would help children or families. Because religious groups and international groups often focus on helping families and/or children, this all fits into a neat bow.

And yet…

When we think of philanthropists in today’s society, perhaps the first names that come to mind are Warren Buffet and Bill Gates (even though Gates co-founded his foundation with his wife). Philanthropy can be traced back to money moguls like Dale Carnegie, who strongly supported the concept of using the wealth he accrued from his business to help better society (even though he seriously maltreated many of his workers, but that’s a different story). So if women are so much more charitable than men, why is it that men seem to creep into the tale when we talk about philanthropy?

Perhaps it’s a matter of simple linguistics. Maybe on a personal level or a household level, which is what the Women Give 2010 report studied, charity is the word used for social giving while in the business world the word philanthropy is used. There are more men in high positions in the business world, so there are more philanthropists. More women are involved, it seems, in running a household, so there are more charitable women and more philanthropic men.

None of these answers strike me as 100% satisfactory, though. Plenty of men care a great deal about children and families and international affairs. Is it a catch-22 where organizations tied to causes like that simply market more to women than to men? In married households, do men defer to women’s judgment when it comes to social giving?

It’s hard to find a single answer as to why this trend exists, but there is little question that based on the numbers, women are in fact more charitable than men.

What do you make of this information? I’d love to hear your thoughts!