Local Community and National Giving Context

In addition to the more personal affiliations of spouses, parents, friends, and religious calls, we examine two more general spokes of the web of group affiliations: local community and the national contexts of giving. The spokes on the left side of Figure 5.3 represent the local community and national contexts of giving. Based on a long lineage in social theory about the important role of community and national contexts in shaping people’s behaviors, we posit that giving behaviors will also relate to the affiliations that individuals have with their local community and nation.

People can perceive their local and national contexts as more or less generous, and we had Americans assess the giving levels of people in the nation and in their local community. For the national context we asked, “If you had to guess, what would you say is the amount of money the typical U.S. household contributed to charitable causes over the last 12 months?” We asked for the local context, “If you had to guess, what would you say is the amount of money the typical household in your neighborhood (or local community) contributed to charitable causes over the last 12 months?” Figure 5.6 illustrates the results of both these measures. National giving perceptions are displayed with the dark, dashed line with diamond markers, and local community giving perceptions are displayed with the light, solid line with x-shaped markers.

For ease of interpretation, we collapse these estimates of donations in Figure 5.6 into three categories: none (for $0), moderate ($1-100), and high amounts (more than $100) for the community and national contexts. The results are similar and indicate that:

  • • Fewer than 10 percent of Americans think the average American gave nothing to charitable causes in the past year (national context).
  • • Fewer than 20 percent think typical local community members gave nothing.
  • • Nearly 20 percent think average Americans gave moderately ($o-$ioo).
  • • More than 20 percent think typical local community members gave moderately ($0-$100).
Community and national giving levels

figure 5.6 Community and national giving levels.

  • • More than 70 percent think average Americans gave a high amount ($100 or more).
  • • Nearly 70 percent think typical local community members gave a high amount ($100 or more).

Americans perceive their local community as participating in giving more than the nation. However, there is a perception that the national citizen gives larger amounts ($100 or more) than the citizen in their local community.

In summary, when we consider each of the six affiliations separately, Americans are more likely than not to have generosity-supportive affiliations. However, a large minority of Americans have affiliations that are neutral or negative in their generosity support.

 
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