TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Charitable Giving Makes You Healthier, Happier, and Better Looking

DonationsWall Street Journal op-ed:  Handsome Is As Handsome Gives: Donors to Charity Aren't Merely Generous Souls; They're Happier, Healthier and Better Looking Too, by Arthur Brooks (President, American Enterprise Institute):

The philanthropy monitor Giving USA estimates that U.S. nonprofits and houses of worship received an amazing $316 billion in 2012. More than 70% of those voluntary gifts were donated by individuals and families. ...

Survey data tell us about how Americans give. The University of Michigan's Panel Study of Income Dynamics shows that about two-thirds of Americans contributed to charity in 2009, even in the teeth of the recession. The average family contributed $1,239, or 1.6% of average income. We know that contributions climb as wealth and income rise, as one would expect. Giving also increases with age and education. Women give more than men, married people give more than singles, and religious Americans of all faiths give more than people with no religion.

American generosity is internationally exceptional and generally amazes foreigners, especially those from the social democracies across the Atlantic. As a European acquaintance once asked me, "What's in it for you?"

A reasonable question. Leave aside for a moment the metaphysical rewards of giving; as a social scientist would say, they are "empirically untestable." Here in this mortal coil, does giving boost our odds of living longer and healthier lives? Will it make us more attractive? If we fail to donate, will others think we were raised by wolves?

The answer to all these questions is "yes." For starters, happiness and giving are strongly correlated. ... Giving improves our health, too. ... Charitable giving is even good for our looks. ...

So, on behalf of my colleagues in America's millions of nonprofits, voluntary organizations and houses of worship, I want you to know we're here for you. We want to help you become healthier, happier and better looking. Preferably before the end of the calendar year.

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