News and analysis
October 20, 2010

Most Women Give More Than Men, New Study Finds

Women at every income level give to charity more often than men do—and they tend to donate more money on average than their male counterparts, according to a study released Thursday.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, analyzed charitable-giving data from 8,000 American households.

“The conventional wisdom is that women do not give a lot of money,” said Debra J. Mesch, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, who also served as the new study’s lead researcher. “This study shows that this is just not true.”

Income Levels

Because previous studies on gender and charitable giving have included married couples—making it hard to tease out the effects of either sex on giving patterns—Ms. Mesch’s research excluded couples. Instead, it assessed giving by households headed by a single man or woman. The study compared men and women who were similar in terms of income, age, education, and number of children, since such characteristics often affect how much people give.

Looking at every income level, she found that women give to charity more frequently than men in similar circumstances. Giving by men and women is closest at the lowest income level, $23,509 or less. But more than one-third of women making less than that sum (35.2 percent) were still more likely to give to charity than men earning the same amount (27.5 percent).

Those gender differences are more pronounced among people making more money, the study found. For example, all but 4 percent of women who made more than $103,000 gave to charity, while only three-fourths of men who made that much did.

What’s more, at almost every income level, the amount women gave exceeded that of men in comparable circumstances. For example, women who earn $23,509 or less gave an average of $540 per year to charity, while men in that income bracket with similar life circumstances (such as education and number of children) gave $281. Women who earn more than $103,000 annually gave $1,910 to charity, while their male counterparts gave $984.

Men’s giving did outstrip women’s in one group, those who earn $23,510 to $43,499: Men earning that much gave an average of $1,033 to charity, 32 percent more than women, who gave only $701.

Ms. Mesch said that she was not sure why men in one income group gave more, but she plans to investigate that in a future study.

A Lesson for Fund Raisers

The study also found that, among single households in the study, men who were widowed gave more on average to charity ($1,820) than women whose husbands had died ($928). But never-married ($783) and divorced or separated women ($641) gave more than never-married males ($498) or divorced or separated men ($483).

While men gave more in a few instances, Ms. Mesch said, she was surprised by “the consistency across income levels.”

For fund raisers, she said, the study shows that “if you do not pay attention to women, you will lose out on a huge audience. This trend will continue as women continue to gain income, education, and wealth. Women also outlive men, so you really have to pay attention to women as donors.”