Gender Differences in Income Affect where Couples Give

gender differencesHow gender differences in income affect where couples give, women’s and men’s differing motivations for giving, and who supports causes aimed at helping women and girls are among the issues addressed in new research just released by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“Women and men both bring their own preferences, priorities and financial resources to a household, and they both influence the couple’s charitable giving, but they affect it differently,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., director of research for the school. “For example, differences in men’s and women’s income shape not only the couple’s overall giving but also what causes they support.”

While both men’s and women’s income play important roles in a couple’s giving, an increase in the man’s income tends to result in a greater likelihood of the couple giving to religious, youth, international and combined purposes organizations (such as United Way, Jewish federations or Catholic Charities), and/or in giving larger amounts to those causes, the study found. When the woman’s income increases, the couple is more likely to give – and to give a larger amount – to charities providing for basic human needs, such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, or a shelter for the homeless.

The study also found that nearly half (45 percent) of all donors surveyed give specifically to causes that support women and girls. When researchers looked at giving by gender, they found that half of women donors and two out of five men donors give to these causes.

In high net worth households (those with $250,000 or more in income and/or $1 million or more in assets not including their principal residence), men and women shared the same top motivations for giving. Gender differences appeared in lower priority motivations. Women are more likely than men to say that they give because of their political or philosophical beliefs; give because they are on the board or volunteer for an organization; and give spontaneously in response to a need.

“The new research will help fundraisers better understand donors’ interests, what motivates them to give, and which donors support what causes,” said Debra Mesch, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute and Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “Our study also will provide donors with a deeper understanding about how income and other factors affect households’ giving across charitable causes.”

The new study’s results build on and provide a closer look at previous research by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, which has found that:

  • Single women are more likely to give to charity and give more than similarly-situated men.
  • Women tend to spread their giving across more organizations, while men concentrate their giving.
  • Women are more likely to give to almost every charitable subsector, with a few exceptions such as sports and adult recreation.

The complete study, “Where Do Men and Women Give? Gender differences in the motivations and purposes for charitable giving,” is available for download.