The holiday season is upon us and we're full steam ahead, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday looming. After the shopping craze subsides, Giving Tuesday comes next, which is intended to be a global day of giving. As such, Tuesday, November 27 marks the official start to the charitable giving season. After all, 'tis the season, right?
Not for everyone. And especially not the wealthy.
An assistant professor at USC recently delivered some damning evidence regarding the state of charitable giving in America. According to Nicolas Duquette, the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots comes with an unfortunate side effect--the rich, despite getting richer, are donating smaller shares of their income.
The study, entitled "Inequality and Philanthropy: High-Income Giving in the United States 1917-2012," looked at hard data and drew a clear conclusion: The lower the economic inequality, the higher the share of income that affluent individuals donated to the public good...and vice versa.
Bear in mind, that doesn't necessarily equate to less money, but it doesn't equate to more, either. Paired with the inefficient output that most nonprofits suffer from, philanthropy isn't in its healthiest state at the moment.
Duquette does do a little speculating on why this is. Maybe, he suggests, it's because wealth creates a divide between people, and the larger the divide, the more distant the uber-rich become from the needs of others.
That's one way of thinking about it.
Another way of thinking about it is that people who are worth billions of dollars become more distant from themselves.
Let's talk about Jeff Bezos, who's the world's richest person (and also pretty easy to pick on). He didn't grow up rich. He even worked at McDonald's as a teen, so it's fair to reason that at some point in time, he understood the value of a dollar as seen by the average, working class American.
That time is long gone, though. Now, Bezos has so much money that you have to wonder what he thinks "a lot" even means anymore. Is a thousand dollars a lot? Ten thousand? A million?
The seemingly relevant point here is that maybe the super-rich don't give less because they're stingy, but because they're simply out of touch. That's not an excuse, just one potential clue in the search for perspective.
With that said, Giving Tuesday is coming up, and in theory it could be the perfect time for America's financial elite to render Duquette's data obsolete. I don't think he'd mind.