Giving Makes Families Happier, Especially When Women Lead, Study Finds

Giving Makes Families Happier, Especially When Women Lead, Study Finds

People who give to charitable causes are happier than those who don't, and when women drive or participate equally in giving decisions the entire family is happier, a report from the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds.

Based on data from the school's Philanthropy Panel Study, the report, Women Give 2017: Charitable Giving & Life Satisfaction: Does Gender Matter? (36 pages, PDF), found that giving to charity is positively related to life satisfaction, regardless of gender or marital status. The report also found that married or cohabiting heterosexual couples report higher levels of both giving and of life satisfaction than single men or women, and that life satisfaction increases for men when they become donors, while for women it increases when they or their household give more as a percentage of their income. In addition, single women and couples who give more than 2 percent of their incomes express higher levels of satisfaction than those who give less than 2 percent, regardless of income level.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Goodrid Family Fund, a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, the report found that couples in which women drive or share in giving decisions express higher levels of satisfaction than those in which men make those decisions or in which the couple give separately, especially when the amount involved totals more than 2 percent of income. And among households in which women drive or share in the giving decisions, giving of more than 2 percent boosts life satisfaction significantly more for those earning less than $100,000 than for those earning at least $100,000.

"These results show that giving is good for the donor as well as the recipient, and they provide new insights that help us better understand the 'joy of giving'," said Debra J. Mesch, director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute and the Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women's Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. "This research is heartening. We know that people experience greater life satisfaction when they have better health, lower stress levels, and so forth. We now know that giving also adds to life satisfaction, not just for individuals but for their entire families."

"Giving to Charity Makes Everyone Happier, Especially When Women Lead or Participate in Family Decisions." Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Press Release 10/17/2017. "Women Give 2017: Charitable Giving & Life Satisfaction: Does Gender Matter?." Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Report 10/17/2017.