People are often suprised to hear how many people who once received assistance from Modest Needs turned right around to become donors to Modest Needs. It's a wonderful fact about this organization, but studies and experience have shown that those with less money are often more charitable than those with more money.
Take a look at this chart from McClatchy that shows just how much more the poor give than the wealthy:
While Bill Gates' Billionaire Challenge gets much of the ink in the press, the fact is that those with less give proportionally more, even when the going gets tough:
The generosity of poor people isn't so much rare as rarely noticed, however. In fact, America's poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What's more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does.
Is this because those with less money know more people in need? Are the poor more empathetic to being without? One article suggests it is because those who are poor are not scared of poverty, unlike the wealthy:
"We're not scared of poverty the way rich people are," he said. "We know how to get the lights back on when we can't pay the electric bill."
In terms of income, the poorest fifth seem like unlikely benefactors. Their pretax household incomes averaged $10,531 in 2007, according to the BLS survey, compared with $158,388 for the top fifth.
In addition, its members are the least educated fifth of the U.S. population, the oldest, the most religious and the likeliest to rent their homes, according to demographers. They're also the most likely fifth to be on welfare, to drive used cars or rely on public transportation, to be students, minorities, women and recent immigrants.
Why do you think that those with less give more, percentage-wise, than those with plenty? Let's hear from you in the comments.
[Image by Steven Depolo]