Something’s wrong here: The United States is the most charitable nation in the world, and yet nearly half of Americans are classified as poor/low income, with 16 percent now living below the poverty line.
This week, the Charities Aid Foundation released the 2011 World Giving Index, a comprehensive study that ranks countries by their generosity. The study, gleaned from 150,000 interviews with participants in 153 nations, focused on three categories: monetary donations, time spent volunteering, and willingness to help a stranger.
This year, the United States topped the list, up from fifth place in 2010.
While the amount of money Americans give to charity has not increased markedly, the study found a 4 percent increase in volunteering time, and an 8 percent increase in helping a stranger. (While this may not seem like drastic change, one percent means thousands of people.)
Overall, the study found that:
- two-thirds of Americans have donated to charity
- 43 percent have volunteered their time
- 73 percent have helped a stranger.
- worldwide giving increased less than 1 percent in the last year (from 31.6 percent in 2010 to 32.4 percent in 2011)
- while the monetary donations have dropped across the board, volunteering time and helping strangers has increased
- giving money and volunteer time is increasingly popular in the oldest age group (over 50), and
- helping strangers is most common among the middle aged (25 – 34 years old).
The World Giving Index and its findings beg us to consider what charity and giving mean; how people of faith can best give generously within their means; and what these studies might teach us about ourselves and our world.
The most generous country in the world shouldn’t abide half of its citizens living in poverty.
UPDATED 2:31 EST.
Joshua Witchger is an editorial web assistant for Sojourners. Follow Joshua on his blog, Hail Fellow, Well Met.