In which countries are young people more likely to give to charity than their elders?


Alliance magazine


This article originally appeared on CAF’s website, on 24 November 2014. The original article can be found here>

The 2014 World Giving Index challenges Western stereotypes of youth by showing that in transitional economies, young people are fast becoming the driving force behind the growth in charitable giving.

Most people would predict that young people would be less likely to give money to not-for-profits than other age groups. People aged between 15 and 29 generally earn less and the expectation is that what income they do earn should be invested in their future. As such, the assumption is that older generations – 30 to 49 year-old and particularly people aged over 50 – will be much more likely to give money to charity. The chart below shows that this assumption is indeed borne out in the 2014 World Giving Index data with 30.% of people aged over 50 years-old giving money to charity compared to 21.3% of 15 to 29 year-olds.

2014 World Giving Index, Future World Giving

But deeper analysis shows that in spite of generally reduced capacity to give, in many countries young people are almost as likely as older generations to engage in giving money to non-profits as older generations. Indeed, the 2014 World Giving Index reveals that there are 23 countries in which a higher proportion of 15-29 year-olds had given money to charities in the month before being surveyed than the over 50s and a further 5 nations where they had matched the generosity of their elders. In Tanzania for example, the proportion of young people giving of charity outstripped the over 50s by a staggering 10 percentage points (25% against 15%).

With the 15 to 29 age group outshining older generations in Tanzania, Uganda, Congo, Malawi, Senegal, Chad, Gabon, Rwanda, Liberia and Zimbabwe, we might be seeing an awakening of a potentially transformative engagement of young people in Sub-Saharan Africa to a more formal type of giving. Having been consistently a strong presence in the World Giving Index top ten for the proportion of people who “helped a stranger” – this years top ten includes Liberia (4th), Zambia (6th), Uganda (9th) and Kenya (10th) – it seems that we are beginning to see the youth of the sub continent start to build on a strong culture of informal giving by engaging in giving to Not-for-profit organisations.

Also of note is the fact that 8 of the 23 countries where young people are more likely to made donations to non-profits in the month before being surveyed – Kosovo, Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Nagorno-Karabakh Region, Macedonia, Albania and Russia – were formally part of the Soviet Union. Under the Soviet model of communism, not-for-profits were seen as an anachronism that was not consistent with the vision of an all providing state. However, it seems that young people in former Soviet nations who have not known communism as adults, are increasingly likely to embrace a lifestyle of generosity. A report published by CAF Russia, Russia Giving, corroborates this finding 43% of 18-24 year-olds reporting that they had given to charity in the last year compared to 31% of the over 55s.

Transitional economies seeing a philanthropic awakening amongst young people

The good news doesn’t end there. The 2014 World Giving Index reveals that although the proportion of people giving money to non-profits globally has fallen by 0.6 percentage points, it has grown by 2.6 percentage points in transition economies – those countries whose economic development is such that they can no longer be considered as developing nations whilst not yet not yet being sufficient to classify as fully developed. Interestingly, in many of these economies, the gap between the proportion of young people giving money to charitable organisations is significantly lower than the 9 percent gap seen in the global data.

The chart below shows that the three transitioning groups of nations defined by economists and market analysts – BRICS, (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) and the Next 11 (Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam) see a much smaller gap between the percentage of young people giving money to non-profits than their older peers. The largest gap between 15 to 29 year-olds and older generations in these transitioning economic groups is amongst MINT countries where 30 to 49 year-olds outperform their younger counterparts by 5.5 percentage points. Contrast that with the rich countries represented in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) where the gap between the 15 to 29s and the over 50s is 15 percentage points (it might be higher if we had full demographic data for the USA and the UK).

2014 World Giving Index, Future World Giving

Youth unemployment might be clouding our view

Even this might be underestimating the real potential of today’s youth to drive forward a culture of giving in the future. Young people face more resource obstacles to giving both because they earn less and they are more likely to be unemployed, especially since the 2008 recession. There were an estimated 201.8 million unemployed people around the world in 2013 according to the International labour Organization, with an increase of 4.9 million on the previous year, and equating to a total global unemployment rate of 6%. Young people, aged 15 to 24, are harder hit with an unemployment rate amongst this group of 13.1%.

Given that youths are suffering more from unemployment, it seems reasonable to assume that the capacity of young people to give is disproportionately reduced by unemployment and that where this is the case, it reflects an inability to give rather than an unwillingness. Though this effect is almost impossible to measure but using the data available to us we can make a very rough approximation by making some very shaky assumptions. Please don’t treat this as a representation of the facts. If you are a research professional, please look away now!

If we firstly make the (deeply flawed) assumption that unemployment rates for 15 to 24 year olds in each country will work as a proxy for that of 15 to 29 year-olds (it would likely be slightly lower), and we also assume that the remaining age groups are roughly in line with the overall average unemployment rate in each country (it would obviously be slightly higher in reality having removed data for young people), then we can weight our data to adjust for unemployment disparities between the age groups. Clearly this methodology is not only compromised by the false assumptions made above, but also by the even more sweeping assumption that unemployed people don’t give money to charity, which is clearly false. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the revelations of this analysis must be taken with a large heap of salt, I do think it reveals something interesting.

2014 World Giving Index, Future World Giving

The chart above shows that if we were to adjust for unemployment disparities between age groups, our flawed and heavily caveated methodology outlined above suggests that it would show young people to be just as, if not more generous than older generations, particularly in transitional economies. Indeed, it suggests that young people in South Africa, India and Russia would be more likely to give money to charity than any other age group.

Time to face some uncomfortable truths

Given that young people are the future of philanthropy, and that they face more barriers to financial giving than other age groups, it would seem logical to focus our energies on facilitating their engagement from the earliest point. By working to secure the donations of young people – focusing on promoting and nurturing giving even if the donations may be very small – non-profits and anyone interested in philanthropy and a well resourced civil society would be helping to leverage the potential of the next generation of donors. By failing to do this, we risk sending a clear message to young people; “we don’t care about your desire t do good. Come back when you’re rich.” Such a perception is likely to turn some donors off for a lifetime.

In reality, the problem is that many non-profits don’t really value young people because they can’t afford to give much. This is short sighted as young people are not only the philanthropists of the future, they are incredibly good at sharing ideas amongst their social groups. But perhaps the biggest danger is that in our rush to export Western concepts of philanthropy to transitional and developing economies, we also export our ignorance of the importance of engaging young people in giving.

At CAF we have been trying to address the failure to encourage young people to give and our Growing Giving campaign sought to think of our charitable activities as a life-long journey. Personally, I think we should be thinking a lot more about the potential of young people in transitional economies to mature into a golden generation of philanthropist. In many ways, we depend on it. We need to focus on engaging them in giving, regardless of the amount they can give. That is not only a key issue addressed by the Future World Giving project, it is literally the future of world giving.

Adam Pickering 

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