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Altruism born of suffering? The impact of an adverse health shock on pro-social behaviour

Nicole Black, Elaine De Gruyter, Dennis Petrie () and Sarah Smith

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2021, vol. 191, issue C, 902-915

Abstract: ‘Altruism born of suffering’ (ABS) predicts that, following an adverse life event such as a health shock, individuals may become motivated to help others and act pro-socially. However, despite anecdotal support this has not been examined systematically. Using data from the United States Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we find that an adverse health shock does not lead to a general increase in pro-social behaviour; it neither causes people to start giving, nor does it spark an increase in donations across charitable causes. Instead, ABS is akin to a specific shock that affects giving to health charities. We find a significant increase in the probability of giving to health charities, with no change for other charity types. Accompanying this is an increase in amounts given to health charities, which comes at the expense of non-health, non-religious charities. The impact is greatest in the year after the health shock, attenuating thereafter.

Keywords: Altruism born of suffering; Charitable giving; Pro-social behaviour; Health shock; Warm glow (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:191:y:2021:i:c:p:902-915

DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2021.09.038

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Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is currently edited by Houser, D. and Puzzello, D.

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