The Socioeconomic Basis of Generosity in Britain

Principal Investigator: Yaojun Li, Manchester University

Li and the team of researchers on this project will conduct a systematic analysis of generosity in contemporary Britain using the most authoritative data sets in Britain, The Citizenship Survey (2001 – 2010). Taking a sociological perspective they will explore the interrelationship among three domains of generosity–charitable giving, civic volunteering and informal helping–as well as the socio-structural forces shaping people’s generosity, and the consequences of generous dispositions and practices on people’s well-being, trust, efficacy and political participation.

The study should deepen our understanding of factors that foster or diminish generosity in Britain and help us better inform policy-making that aims to build a more hospitable Britain. The objectives of this project are to:

  • Map the patterns and trends of three domains of generosity in Britain in the last ten years in terms of organized and spontaneous charitable giving, volunteering in formal civic organizations, and informal unpaid helping to non-relatives;
  • Explore the interrelationship, complementarity, propensity and distinctive features among the three domains of generosity and understand the frequency and amount of charitable giving, formal and informal social involvement;
  • Investigate the impact upon different domains of generosity of people’s individual-level socio-demographic attributes, ward-level deprivation and diversity, and their everyday life encounters and labor market experiences of discrimination;
  • Study the drivers of and barriers to generosity;
  • Examine the consequences of generosity on people’s perceived well-being (controlling for actual health) and their socio-political trust, efficacy and participation.

Most existing research analyzes helping and giving separately and most studies use univariate and bivariate techniques. The researchers on this project hope to demonstrate the powerful socioeconomic bases of generosity–including a host of understudied key independent variables–to evaluate their relative impacts. They link their analyses to research in social stratification and the labor market to assess individual and contextual effects on generosity.


“The Socioeconomic Basis of Generosity in Britain” should offer the most comprehensive and systematic research on population level generosity in Britain. It will not only enhance our understanding of the causes, expressions and consequences of generosity, but also be of considerable importance to policy makers and the third sector, helping them design more effective fund-raising programs and policy initiatives to make our society generally more hospitable.