News and analysis
December 03, 2013

Americans Rank 13th in Charitable Giving Among Countries Around the World

Americans are less likely than people in other countries to donate money to help others, according to a new global survey of 135 countries.

In fact, the World Giving Index 2013 found that the United States did not even make the top 10 for giving to charity. It did better when it came to two other charitable behaviors: It snagged the top spot for helping a stranger in need of assistance (at 77 percent), and it ranked third for volunteering (at 45 percent).

The survey, conducted last year, ranked countries based on the percentage of people who said they had engaged in certain charitable behaviors during the previous month.

In terms of giving money to charity, the U.S. population was ranked 13th, with 62 percent of Americans reporting having made a financial donation in the previous month. The No. 1 and No. 2 rankings on that measure were Myanmar (85 percent) and the United Kingdom (76 percent).

“The survey reminds us of the true nature of being charitable,” said Ted Hart, chief executive of the U.S. branch of the Charities Aid Foundation, an international organization that commissioned the study as part of its work to promote giving worldwide. He added: “What makes a society charitable is how we care for each other, not just the measure of how much money we give away.”

The survey, which was conducted by Gallup, found rising levels of charitable behavior in developing countries, with some of those nations outranking the United States in the percentage of people who gave money to charities last year. For example, people in both Thailand (No. 5, at 70 percent) and Indonesia (No. 12, at 63 percent) were more likely than Americans to give money to charity.

And women all around the world, despite lagging behind men in their earnings, were more likely than their male counterparts to report giving money to charity. Men were more likely to volunteer or to help a stranger.

The survey, which has been conducted every year since 2008, is based primarily on interviews with 1,000 people per country, age 15 or older.

Among the more than 155,000 respondents who participated in this year’s survey, the average percentage of people who said they donated money, volunteered their time, or helped a stranger last year all grew compared to 2011, even though the rate of growth in the global economy shrank from 4 percent to 3.2 percent.

Any growth in charitable behavior is a welcome sign, the researchers said, but they were quick to point out that charitable behavior has still not returned to what it was before the worst of the economic crisis took hold globally.

“For donating money in particular, the 2012 level is still behind the level seen in 2008,” they write. “The hope must be for this reversal to evolve into a sustained upward trend.”

A full copy of the World Giving Index 2013 is available free.