Personality traits affect how much we give to charity

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Donations of time and money can vary depending on our personality type, says new research that investigates the association between personality traits and charitable behaviour.

Extraversion and openness to experience are both positively and significantly associated with the time spent volunteering, whilst neuroticism is inversely related to hours volunteered.

In this study by Professor Sarah Brown and Professor Karl Taylor from the University of Sheffield, the ‘Big Five’ personality traits: openness to experience; conscientiousness; extraversion; agreeableness; and neuroticism are investigated.

Using two waves of data from Understanding Society (waves 3 and 4), the results were based on 32,000 people living in the UK.

Social connections, being an active member of a religious group and being a member of a social website are all positively related to time spent volunteering in the following year.

Individuals who are homeowners, explicitly state a religious denomination, and are an active member of a religious group all donate more to charity.

Muslims donate the most money to charity compared to those who do not have a religious affiliation.

Whilst living in an urban area has no impact on charitable donations of money, those individuals who live in an urban area spend less time volunteering.

Household composition is clearly of importance where having children aged 2 or under, in comparison to having no children, is inversely related to the level of donations.

Openness to experience is found to have the largest positive association with future charitable donations and the number of hours volunteered.

The amount donated increases with the level of educational attainment – an individual with a degree donates 33 times more money to charity than a corresponding individual with no qualifications.

Professor Sarah Brown said, “The sample is large scale and representative of the population whereas the literature to date has tended to use small sample surveys or experiments which are arguably not representative of the population.”

“Understanding Society is a panel survey, which allows us to track individuals over time. The existing literature, which has focused on both donations of time and money, has predominantly used cross-sectional data. The availability of panel data enables us to reduce the potential for reverse causality since the measurement of personality traits and charitable behaviour occurs at different points in time.”

Read the full paper

Charitable Behaviour and the Big Five Personality Traits: Evidence from UK Panel Data was published by The University of Sheffield’s Department of Economics in July 2015.

NB Please note that this news article has been reposted from the Understanding Society website.