Americans are more generous than Europeans — by a large margin


Liberals often love to portray America as a cartoonishly greedy nation driven by a hyperindividualistic and capitalistic nature that exhibits little concern regarding the common good or others around the world. 

This idea pervades our culture. When asked to describe themselves, 68 percent of Americans came to the word “selfish” as the top negative trait

Yet by nearly every measure Americans are more generous with their money and time than anyone — including Europeans. 

Indeed, American charitable giving exceeds the entire GDP of most European countries. 

According to the Almanac of American Philanthropy, Americans donate around seven times as much as continental Europeans to charitable causes per capita. Per person, even after adjusting for differences in household income, Americans donate twice as much of their income as the Dutch, three times as much as the French, five times as much as Germans, and ten times that of Italians. 

Only 14 percent of American donations come from foundation grants, and another 5 percent from corporations. More than 80 percent of charitable giving, however, is done by individuals. And this charity is found wide and deep within society. Every year, six out of ten households in the United States donate to a charitable cause, and the typical household gives somewhere around $2,000 to $3,000. 

Convenience store owner Moises Abreu gave out free meals every day to people from his neighborhood of Reading, Penn., during the COVID-19 pandemic.
MediaNews Group via Getty Images

The entire nation is altruistic, though the more religious the population, the more it gives. But even 40 percent of secular Americans give to charity, still better than most European nations. 

Indeed, in the United States, the generous can be found among the wealthy and the poor. As a percentage of income, Americans in lower income brackets are just as generous as the wealthy, and more generous than most of the middle class. Unsurprisingly, in absolute dollars the rich give the most, with the top 1 percent of the income earners donating a third of all charity. And the richest 1.4 percent are responsible for nearly all charitable donations made at death. 

Despite stereotypes about the selfishly rich, the more the nation struggles, the more the wealthy Americans pitch in. During the coronavirus crisis, for example, the nonprofit arms of major investment houses saw huge increases in charitable giving from wealthy Americans. Grants to food banks and other food assistance programs were up 667 percent nationally — 800 percent in the hardest-hit mid-Atlantic states. 

According to the Almanac of American Philanthropy, Americans are 10 times more likely to donate to a charitable cause than Italians.
According to the Almanac of American Philanthropy, Americans are 10 times more likely to donate to a charitable cause than Italians.

Middle- and working-class people continued to give to their local charities, even as they struggled — one report tallied over 750,000 transactions to more than 100,000 charities in the first three months of the pandemic. 

Critics of the US argue that most of the charitable donations are given to religious groups, and are thus obligations rather than altruism. 

This is also a myth. The three most popular causes Americans contribute to are household basic social services, “combined purpose” charitable organizations like United Way or Catholic Charities — which help the poor — and health care. 

Eurotrash by David Harsanyi

Europeans will, no doubt, argue that they already give charity in high taxes that fund big social safety nets. The data shows, however, that in overall spending, there isn’t much difference between the United States and other developed nations — each redistributing 20 percent of GDP. Once added in with the massive amount of charity, there is no comparing American generosity — the only difference is that most of ours is not a state obligation. 

The American disposition is to rely far more on the communal and local help than Europeans, who rely on government to do their charity for them. The cultural habits formed over 200 years of American life have created a society that both values and leans heavily on charitable causes. 

David Harsanyi is a senior writer at National Review and author of “Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent”



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