The link between ‘giving’ behaviours and a healthy social environment

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Zischka, L.

This thesis explores the role of prosocial considerations in society. It suggests that a willingness to take other persons into consideration in one’s resource allocation decisions is an essential element of social cohesion which, in the civic sector, is manifest in giving. An inclination to give is influenced by one’s wider social environment (norms, pressures and incentives) and also by one’s own values and attitudes, which sometimes motivate a person to act for the good or bad of others independently of her social environment. The combination of these factors drives prosocial behaviours like giving to positively impact the wider social environment and the prosocial inclinations of others. The altered social environment then feeds back to the prosocial motivation of the individual. This response and counter-response as people interact determines whether social cohesion expands or contracts over time. Giving behaviours then comprise one, easy-to-measure flow from a highly complex social stock. By monitoring giving behaviours we gain insight into civic sector pro-sociality and the way that the civic sector is contributing to social cohesion. Civic sector cohesion is valuable, and thus I find that giving is associated with a host of better welfare outcomes: improved life-satisfaction, improved trust, improved incomes, improved neighbourhood ratings, improved sense of security and reduced crime and deprivation: In some ways, giving interacts with these factors on a scale comparable to the big social drivers like education, health and wealth, and predicts welfare outcomes better than incomes can. I find that giving within one’s close social circle and giving outside of it both have their own significance. By monitoring giving behaviours then, governments and development agents gain insight into a community’s social strengths and weaknesses, and the way that their interventions are influencing these vital attributes. This provides them with a basis for policy evaluation and adjustment.
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