Boomer Women Give More to Charity, New Study Finds

Women of the Baby Boom and older generations give more to charity than their male counterparts and are more likely to give, when education, income and other factors affecting giving are equal, a new study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University finds.

“Women, in general, earn less and have less money in retirement than men, and they have a greater life expectancy,” said Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. “Although some may have concerns about their financial security, our study suggests that Boomer and older women share their resources with others more generously than their male peers.”

At all income levels, and regardless of the share of their permanent income that they give, Boomer and older women give 89 percent more to charity than their male counterparts.

Among those who are in the top 25 percent of permanent income, Boomer and older women give 156 percent more than similarly situated men.

“Our previous research has found that women tend to be more altruistic than men and that their giving frequently is motivated by the desire to make a difference in peoples’ lives,” Mesch said. “Additionally, women’s strong networks may keep them more connected to both the needs of others and to opportunities to give.”

As the largest generation in America today, Baby Boomers have had a significant impact on society, and that impact is expected to continue to be felt as they age, including in philanthropy, Mesch said.

“Boomer women are transforming philanthropy through innovative new charitable organizations and new ways to engage in charitable activity,” she added. “Understanding their giving habits provides insights into the future of philanthropy and helps women understand the context for their own personal giving.”

The study is among the first to examine the combined effects of age and gender on charitable giving. It looks at giving behavior in a more comprehensive way, controlling for financial resources over the individual’s lifetime and adjusting for life expectancy. The research uses data from 2003 to 2007.

“The giving habits of Boomer and older women are a powerful reminder about the importance of gender in philanthropy,” Mesch added. “These insights help nonprofits better understand their female donors and remind fundraisers of the importance and value of seeking gender balance in their fundraising strategies.”

Women Give 2012 builds on previous research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute that offers deeper insights about how gender differences affect giving, such as Women Give 2010. Like that report, it uses data from the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study (COPPS), the nation’s largest nationally representative sample that tracks giving patterns among the same households over time.

The Women Give series studies only households headed by single females and single males to explain gender differences in giving. Because married couples tend to pool income and make joint decisions about giving to charity, studying married couples does not allow for testing of gender differences in giving.

The full report is available here.