News and analysis
December 19, 2011

Americans Are Most Generous, Global Poll Finds

Americans give more to help others than the residents of 152 other countries, according to a new global survey. That’s a big change from last year, when the United States ranked No. 5.

The poll, conducted last year with about 1,000 residents in each of 153 countries, asked people whether they had donated money to a charity, volunteered their time, or helped a stranger in the previous month.

By averaging the responses of people who had done each of those things, the survey ranked the United States as No. 1 with a score of 60. The average score for all countries included in the survey was 31.6. Following closely behind the United States was Ireland, with a score of 59, Australia (58), New Zealand (57), and the United Kingdom (57). Researchers said they were still assessing the results to figure out why each country had landed where it did on the rankings.

Regional Rankings

The survey was the second of its kind to be released by the Charities Aid Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase charitable giving. Founded in the United Kingdom, it has offices in eight other countries, including the United States

Researchers also compared different regions of the world such as North America, Australasia, Central America, and sub-Saharan Africa. While the United States was the top-ranked country in terms of giving, North America, which includes Canada, turned out to be second most-generous region behind Australasia, covering both Australia and New Zealand.

Among other findings from the survey:

  • Eight countries had scores that increased or decreased by 10 percent or more.
  • Noting that the global financial crisis affects many countries, the survey found that the total number of people who gave cash to charity last year dropped from 2009. The decrease was less than 1 percent, on average, but the researchers noted that even such a small drop translates into millions of people giving less.
  • “We are delighted to have a picture of a giving world, but concerned” about the drop in giving, said Richard Harrison, director of research at the Charities Aid Foundation, speaking in a conference call from his office in London. “These are very difficult economic times, but perhaps we should be glad it only declined by a small percentage.”

  • Two percent more people worldwide said they had helped a stranger last year, compared to 2009, while 1 percent more said they had volunteered.
  • Giving money to charity and volunteering both grew the most last year among people older than 50, while helping strangers became more common among middle-aged people.