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The Benefits of Giving
When you join Giving What We Can, it’s simply not the case that you thereby lose 10% of your income. Rather, you choose to spend 10% of your income in a different way.
There is evidence to suggest that ‘prosocial’ spending – that is, spending money on others – leads to a larger improvement in personal happiness than does personal spending. One study gave subjects a small sum of money, and told subjects how to spend it. Though the participants expected their happiness to improve more from personal spending rather than prosocial spending, the opposite was found to be the case. Further, a cross-sectional study of a representative sample of Americans also found greater prosocial spending was correlated with significantly greater happiness, while personal spending turned out to be unrelated to happiness1 2.
Dunn, Elizabeth, Lara Aknin, & Michael Norton (2008). “Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness”, Science 319, 1687-1688.
Boyd, Norman, Heather Sutherland, Karen Heasman, David Tritchler, & Bernard Cummings (1990). “Whose Utilities for Decision Analysis?”, Medical Decision Making 10, 58-67; Sackett, Daniel & Torrance, Geoerge (1978). “The utility of different health states as perceived by the general public”, Journal of Chronic Diseases 31, 697-704.
More anecdotally, this idea seems to be borne out by the testimony of members of GWWC themselves. Far from feeling like a sacrifice, giving 10% is generally a very positive experience. You become part of a community of like-minded individuals; you can lose the niggling guilt that you had before; and you can gain deep satisfaction – a ‘warm glow’ – from the knowledge that you are helping others and genuinely making a positive impact on the world.
For more detailed information on this topic, see ‘Giving Without Sacrifice? The relationship between income, happiness, and giving ', by Andreas Mogensen, All Souls College, Oxford University.
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