Increased Generosity under COVID-19 Threat

Posted: 22 Mar 2022 Last revised: 21 Jun 2022

See all articles by Ariel Fridman

Ariel Fridman

ESADE Business School

Rachel Gershon

University of California, Berkeley

Ayelet Gneezy

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

Date Written: March 18, 2022

Abstract

In the face of crises – wars, pandemics, and natural disasters – both increased selfishness and increased generosity may emerge. In this paper, we study the relationship between the presence of COVID-19 threat and generosity using a four-year longitudinal dataset (N = 696,942) capturing real donations made before and during the pandemic, as well as allocations from a six-month dictator game study (N = 1,003 participants) during the early months of the pandemic. Consistent with the notion of “catastrophe compassion” and contrary to some prior research showing a tendency toward self-interested behavior under threat, individuals across both datasets exhibited greater financial generosity when their county experienced COVID-19 threat. While we find that the presence of threat impacted individual giving, behavior was not sensitive to threat level. Our findings have significant societal implications and advance our understanding of economic and psychological theories of social preferences under threat.

Keywords: Generosity, COVID-19, Threat, Longitudinal, Charitable Giving

Suggested Citation

Fridman, Ariel and Gershon, Rachel and Gneezy, Ayelet, Increased Generosity under COVID-19 Threat (March 18, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4060506 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4060506

Ariel Fridman (Contact Author)

ESADE Business School ( email )

Av. de Pedralbes, 60-62
Barcelona, 08034
Spain

Rachel Gershon

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Ayelet Gneezy

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Rady School of Management
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

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