News reporter Dylan Morgen reviews a collaborative research study by Birmingham, Oxford and Vienna Universities revealing the gap in generosity between elders and young adults in giving to international charities.

Written by Dylan Morgen
Last updated
Images by Katt Yukawa

A collaborative research study by academics at Birmingham, Oxford and Vienna Universities showed younger adults across 67 countries more willing to donate to international COVID charities than their parents and grandparents.

Only older adults in China, Spain and the Netherlands bucked this trend and showed greater willingness to donate internationally than their younger citizens.

Dr Jo Cutler and Dr Patricia Lockwood from the University of Birmingham School of Psychology and Centre for Human Brain Health said: ‘As countries, including the UK, are announcing cuts to foreign aid budgets, there will be an increasing reliance on global charities. Understanding the giving preferences and inclinations of different age groups could therefore be extremely important in planning campaigns and appeals.’

The Daily Mail also reported that the study had shown that ‘Women in general were found to be kinder than men, while wealth appeared to have a negative effect on philanthropy, with those who perceived themselves as being better off donating less to good causes.’

Increased prosocial behaviour – generosity and distancing – is shown around the world for older adults compared to younger adults. However, whom people are willing to help seems to change as people age. As the challenges of the 21st century become increasingly global in nature, and rely on people helping others, it is vital we understand how different age groups might respond.’

younger people have grown up online and spent that time exposed to people from all around the world, so I think we find it easier to have empathy for those in other countries

The Birmingham researchers used information collected from 46,500 people in 67 countries who expressed their donation preferences. Around 200 academics in the open science International Collaboration on the Social & Moral Psychology of COVID-19 organisation enabled the country surveys.

The University of Birmingham press release also said, ‘Importantly, the team found their results remained consistent even after considering other factors like how wealthy each country is, the severity of the pandemic at the time data was collected, and participants’ perceived risk of catching the virus.’

Dr Jo Cutler commented further in Nature Portfolio: ‘We also tested how personality traits differed across the lifespan, and how that might link to the differences we saw in prosocial behaviour. We found that older adults had stronger self-reported preferences for their “in-group” – people in the same country. They were more likely to report identifying with their country and agreed more strongly with statements such as “My country deserves special treatment.”’

Em Andress, Trans Officer, commented in a FabNFresh poll on charity giving: ‘younger people have grown up online and spent that time exposed to people from all around the world, so I think we find it easier to have empathy for those in other countries.’

Saskia Hirst, Redbrick Life&Style Editor, prefers to donate to local charities, which ‘allows money to go a longer way.’ She went on to say ‘Smaller and local charities have suffered the worst. International charities tend to be bigger. The children with disabilities play time charity I work for has had to shut many centres.’

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