Young versus old: Who is more charitable these days? Credello analyzed existing research [Young vs Old: Who is More Charitable] to help answer this question, comparing the ratio of median income to charity given for different generations: Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, Gen X, and Millennials. The results are quite eye-opening.

At first glance, it looks like older generations contribute more to charity despite the fact that they earn less than their younger counterparts. But that’s not because younger generations don’t value charity. They either give what they’re able to give in this current economy or value different types of contributions. Here’s what you need to know.

Generational differences in charitable giving

Wondering which generation gives the most? According to Bridgeworks data, Baby Boomers are behind 43% of all dollars donated in the country. That said, the Silent Generation – older people who grew up during the Depression era – is the most generous in terms of average annual contributions per person ($1,367).

Even though Gen Xers are top earners, they give less at $732 per person annually, and 20% of dollars donated in the U.S.  However, they do like to get involved through volunteering. According to Charitable Impact, Gen Xers boast the highest volunteer rates in North America (29% in the U.S. and 44% in Canada).

As for Millennials, they don’t make large financial contributions – only 11% of all charitable giving – but they don’t have the means to due to the burden of student debt and the cost of living. However, they still give what they can: 60% of millennials contribute to charity, just in smaller amounts ($481 per person annually).

Empathy, social impact, and other factors to consider

There are a few possible explanations for the differences above. The Silent Generation grew up in difficult times including poverty and wear. Perhaps that’s why they have a tendency to give back. As for Boomers, they are better positioned to give – they were able to secure a financial future in ways that millennials and Gen Zers simply aren’t.

Gen Xers are in a good financial place – they have the highest median income – but they are possibly more skeptical of big institutions, as there were quite a few public scandals on the corporate and non-profit front during their formative years. They do value philanthropy but prefer helping out by directly taking action. Finally, millennials are as generous as they can be considering current economic conditions. It’ll be interesting to watch how things evolve as their earning potential increases.

Bottom Line

Even though the stats show that older generations give more than younger ones, it’s important to consider the context behind both charitable giving preferences and income. Each generation does seem to value making a positive impact at the end of the day, even if they give differently or can’t give as much as they want.

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