Social Class Shapes Donation Allocation Preferences

Forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research

58 Pages Posted: 28 May 2021

See all articles by Yan Vieites

Yan Vieites

FGV-EBAPE

Rafael Goldszmidt

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV)

Eduardo B. Andrade

affiliation not provided to SSRN; FGV/EBAPE

Date Written: May 17, 2021

Abstract

When considering a charitable act, consumers must often decide on how to allocate their resources across a multitude of possible causes. This article assesses how the relative “urgency” of the causes under consideration (i.e., how critical to human survival the causes are) shapes preferences for specific causes among higher and lower social class consumers. Across a series of studies in a highly unequal socioeconomic environment (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), we demonstrate that lower-class consumers prefer to donate to urgent causes (e.g., alleviating hunger) compared to non-urgent causes (e.g., encouraging cultural activities), whereas the effect reverses among higher-class consumers. Contrasting experiences with scarcity across social classes vary the consumers’ intrinsic sympathy toward people’s unmet basic needs, which in turn shapes donation allocation preferences. Consistent with this theoretical rationale, class differences in charitable allocations decrease when (a) vivid contextual cues induce sympathy among both higher- and lower-class consumers or (b) the experience with scarcity is similar across social classes. Thus, although class differences in preferences for specific causes can be shifted with relative ease, our findings suggest that those who have the most to give do not spontaneously prioritize what is most urgently needed in society.

Keywords: social class, socioeconomic status, prosocial behavior, charitable giving, sympathy

Suggested Citation

Vieites, Yan and Goldszmidt, Rafael and Andrade, Eduardo B. and Andrade, Eduardo B., Social Class Shapes Donation Allocation Preferences (May 17, 2021). Forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3851389

Yan Vieites (Contact Author)

FGV-EBAPE ( email )

R. Jorn. Orlando Dantas, 30
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 22231-010
Brazil

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.yanvieites.com/

Rafael Goldszmidt

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) ( email )

Rio de Janeiro
Brazil

Eduardo B. Andrade

affiliation not provided to SSRN

FGV/EBAPE ( email )

R. Jornalista Orlando Dantas 30
Botafogo
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 22231-010
Brazil

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