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Cultural Attitudes Impact Charitable Behavior
November 11, 2014

Charitable GivingCan someone's geographic location impact their charitable behavior?

According to a research study published in the Journal of Consumer Research by Professor Yinlong Zhang, cultural attitudes do influence giving.

Zhang and his co-author Professor Karen Winterich at Penn State studied how power distance (a culture's attitude toward human inequality) influences philanthropic behavior.

Individuals who come from countries that accept social inequality as part of their social hierarchy were found to have weaker perceptions of responsibility to aid others—resulting in decreases in charitable behavior.

Consumers from countries who promote equality were more likely to donate their time or money to help others.

"We found substantial differences in the level of charitable behavior across countries," said Zhang, a marketing faculty member. "Culture was found to impact giving more than income levels."

Interestingly, the researchers found that this power distance belief could be overcome in certain circumstances. Consumers from all countries were found to give at the same level when the need was viewed as uncontrollable, such as in the case of a natural disaster. Also, individuals were more willing to donate if the need came from an individual within their social group.

"The trend in marketing is to study these cross-cultural comparisons," said Zhang. "Given the uniqueness of this research in power distance, the potential is unlimited for future studies in this field."

Wendy Frost—

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