Economic prosperity not only factor in generosity

Image By: Courtesy of WikiCommons

A global survey on charitable giving was conducted in 135 nations, and very well may provide us a sense of faith in humanity. In 2014, the World Giving Index examined whether people volunteered their time to an organization, offered assistance to someone they did not know who needed it or donated money to a charity. Around 2.3 billion people worldwide reported helping a stranger over a time period of one month, and 1.4 billion people reported that they donated money to a charitable cause in 2013.

As I personally expected, the United States, one of the most affluent nations in the world, ranked No. 1 on the list of most generous nations. Something that you may find surprising, for I certainly did, is that the U.S. shared the No. 1 spot with Myanmar. Myanmar ranks 151 spots lower than the U.S. on the GDP per capita scale. This shows that a nation’s economic prosperity does not automatically translate to generosity.

In fact, only five of the countries in this year’s World Giving Index top 20 are members of the G20, a forum of the world’s largest economies. Less affluent nations like Sri Lanka and Trinidad and Tobago also ranked in the top 10 of most generous nations, while countries like Germany and France are well outside the top 25.

Other factors, like responding to a natural disaster or devotion to a religious philosophy, were found to be major causes of donations. Myanmar earned its first-place ranking mainly due to the fact that nearly all of the surveys’ respondents (91 percent) donated money to charity. This is a practice that is fixed in the country’s Theravada Buddhist community. Sri Lanka is another nation with a large Theravada Buddhist community, and as previously mentioned, ranks ninth in the index. Other nations like Malaysia, which jumped from 71st to 70th on the list, can attribute this move to the outpouring of humanitarian aid following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

It might be the patriotism I have within me or simply because I reside in the U.S., but knowing that we are first in the World Giving Index is very satisfying to me. However, the statistic that Myanmar is equally as generous to the U.S. makes me wonder if we need to be more generous.

As mentioned above, the U.S. is 151 spots ahead of Myanmar on the GDP per capita scale. The median household income in the U.S. in 2013 was $53,046 and has risen slightly since. In Myanmar, agriculture is the primary industry and over a quarter of the population lives in poverty. How a nation like Myanmar can even be close to a superpower like the U.S. in such an economic-based index is beyond me.

These statistics should hit home with those of us fortunate to live in the greatest country on the planet. It is time that as a whole population, we take another step further in terms of generosity. Give one day a week, where you take an hour out of your day, and volunteer to help someone. Take the change you get back from eating out during a week and donate it to a charity. These simple steps can take us to the level where the U.S. should be, one where no other nation on any index, can even come close in terms of generosity.

Jack is a freshman intending to major in journalism and strategic communications. How do you feel about underdeveloped nations, such as Myanmar, giving on the same level as the United States? Send all comments to

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