Women Give 2012: Older Women Give More

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center for Effective Philanthropy at Indiana University has just released its third research report on women donors. The series, named Women Give, builds on a growing body of research about the role and behaviors of female philanthropists. We all know giving motivations are shaped by personal experiences and values, so it should be no surprise that some differences between men and women, such as average income and life expectancy, might also produce different philanthropic behaviors.

While the 2010 report confirmed that there were significant differences between the giving patterns of single men and women in general, the focus of the 2012 report is placed on Baby Boomer and older women. Before this, little research had explored the ways that gender and age might affect giving preference, so the findings of this report provide some valuable insights for our work in philanthropy. These findings include:

– Baby Boomer and older women are more likely to give than their male counterparts in all giving levels. Of those who give, Baby Boomer and older women give 89% more (almost twice as much) to charity than men.

– Baby Boomer and older women in the top 25% of permanent income are more likely to give than their male counterparts. Of those who give, Baby Boomer and older women in the top 25% of permanent income give 156% more (more than 1.5 times more) to charity than men.

Interestingly, the study also lists constraints on giving by Baby Boomer and older women. It’s within this context that the findings are even more remarkable: despite income-limiting factors like risk aversion in financial decision-making, a longer life expectancy (thus higher likelihood of outliving their savings), and less time in the labor force, for example, older women still demonstrate a higher propensity to give to charity. The study doesn’t give much in the way of theories or conclusions on why this trend exists, but the results are no less enlightening.

At the very least, it is certainly affirming: because senior women age 50 and older own more than ¾ of the nation’s financial wealth (MassMutual Financial Group), this does bring some good news for the field of philanthropy.