Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Jews and altruism
In my earlier posts on ethnocentrism among Jewish Americans, commenters provided estimates from GSS data suggesting that Jews are altruistic. In using the term ethnocentric, I wasn't implying that Jews are uncaring toward others; only that they have affection for their own. Their liberalism despite great wealth leaves me with the impression that they care about non-Jews.
I calculated means and percentages for all the GSS questions I could find that tap general altruism. Generic questions about charitable contributions are not good since, for all we know, people are donating money to within-ethnicity causes. Even the questions listed above have problems. Jews are concentrated in urban areas, so questions regarding giving up a seat on a bus or giving money to a homeless person will favor them. (In the question on giving up a seat, I limited it to people living in cities with at least a million people).
On the other hand, non-Jews are advantaged in questions about giving money to needy friends or neighbors. As a wealthier group, Jews are less likely to have friends or neighbors in need. The same could probably be said of some friend, acquaintance, or family member in need of a loan (LENTTO).
Participating in walkathons or donating blood are better questions: percentages seem to be the same for walkathons, while non-Jews might be more likely to donate blood.
Jews, along with those having no religion, certainly shine in terms of giving money to racial organizations. I imagine this is mostly black orgs like the UNCF. I'd chalk this up to greater liberalism.
Judge the numbers as you will: I see little evidence here that Jews differ from others on general altruism.