Are Boomers Charitable?

Dollar-Bills

We boomers are self-indulgent, egocentric, conceited, and . . . generous? A blog post on the AARP site reports a recent study found that, among four adult age groups, Boomers gave the largest total amount to charity.  Out of an estimated total $143.6 billion in annual contributions, Boomers reportedly gave 61.9 billion.  Of course they are the largest demographic group, so the large aggregate sum of Boomer contributions might be made up of paltry individual contributions.  That doesn’t seem to be the case, though.  Here are more detailed figures for each of the age groups, giving average contributions:

  • Generation Y (ages 18 to 32) accounts for 11 percent of all giving. Individuals donate an average $481 annually.
  • Generation X (ages 33 to 48) accounts for 20 percent of all giving. Individuals contribute an average $732 annually.
  • Boomers (ages 49 to 67) represent 43 percent of all giving. Individuals contribute an average $1,212 annually.
  • Matures (ages 68-plus) represent 26 percent of all giving. Individuals contribute an average $1,367 annually.

Thus, the Boomers give much more than both younger age groups and nearly as much as the so-called “Matures,” the oldest group of adults.  I’m particularly impressed by the contributions of the latter group, since they are for the most part retired and living on pensions, social security, and savings, whereas most Boomers are still working.  The substantial contributions of the “Matures” seems in line with Robert Putnam’s claim that there is more civic-mindedness among older as opposed to younger Americans.

I looked at the US Census site to try to determine how the contributions of each group compare to their median incomes.  I couldn’t find statistics for the exact age breakdowns the AARP report uses for these cohorts, but from the table I did find it is evident that median incomes for Generation X and Boomers are fairly close, but income for Generation Y (aka Millennials) lags far behind.  Thus, the low incomes of Millennials may justify their lack of charitable giving, but the same can’t be said for Generation X.

Carole Fleck, author of the AARP blog post, also reports that, for both Boomers and Matures, “local social services like homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and places of worship, were the most popular causes to which they donate.”  Perhaps this reflects a commitment both to the particular charities selected and to the local community in which those organizations are situated.  Now that it is easier to make an online donation to an international nonprofit than it is to write and send a check to a hometown food pantry or church, it will be interesting to see how well local charitable organizations will fare at the hands of younger donors.

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About bobritzema

I am a fourth-generation American of Dutch ancestry and am trained as a clinical psychologist. In 2012, I retired from Methodist University in North Carolina to return to my parents' home and provide them with assistance. I maintain part-time therapy practices in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Fayetteville, North Carolina. I currently worship at Square Inch Community Church in Grand Rapids. I can be reached at bobritzema@hotmail.com.
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