Saturday, December 19, 2009

More on race and altruism

In The 10,000 Year Explosion, Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending claim that agrarian living selected for stinginess. A farmer who gave away all his seed was left with nothing to plant in the spring.

This might explain results from a GSS analysis described in the last post. I've reproduced the findings in the table above and added estimates for Amerindians and Americans of Chinese and Japanese descent (combined into an "Asian" category).

With their deep agricultural histories, you would expect whites and Asians to hold on to their money more tightly. It looks like they do. While they don't seem to differ on non-monetary forms of charity like participating in walkathons, they are less likely to give or loan individuals money. Compare whites and Asians to American Indians, for example. Twice as many Indians as whites have helped a needy neighbor.

Keep two things in mind, however. Pure opportunity might explain these numbers. NAMs associate with more needy people than whites or Asians. (On the other hand, whites and Asians have more money to give). Also--sample sizes are small for everyone except whites.


  1. Anonymous6:34 PM

    How much help are we talking about? I mean, what is the threshold here for help? I mean I give thousands of dollars a year to charity but my neighbors rarely need much help. I did have my son pump up a neighbor lady's flat tire with a bike pump. I gave my car to a friend who was out of work instead of trading it in. I just gave a refrigerator to a handicapped lady and gave $500 to a handicapped friend, along with some other friends so she could have a few thousand dollars to get a used car. My point is not that I am so great, but there is help and then there is help. Perhaps this is like the personality tests where certain groups overrate themselves and others underrate themselves.

  2. dearieme9:43 AM

    Maybe Indians are likelier to live near kinfolk and help them?

  3. Diane8:01 PM

    Where do they get the data about giving seats to strangers from & how reliable is it? I have NEVER seen a black person give a seat to anyone on the subway. On the contrary I have seen them refuse to get up, even when the person asking them says that they have a disability.

  4. It's self-report data.

  5. You are assuming that rates of lying are similar among various races.

    The unwillingness of blacks to donate blood and organs is very widely recognized. Here is a cite which refers to a study documenting that whites donate blood at almost twice the rate of blacks (4.2% vs 2.4%). Also, whites donate more often, so if you measure by volume of blood donated, whites probably donate at more than twice the rates of blacks. The actual research demonstrating this is not available on line (or at least I can't find it).

    If you talk to anyone who actually knows anything about blood banks, they will tell you about the massive inflow of blood from white suburbs to black central cities.

    There is a pretty big literature about kidney transplantation. Here's one easily accessible piece.
    Blacks donate kidneys at rates far below whites. Because kidneys are assigned, in part, based on tissue-typing and since tissue types are distributed differently by race, blacks spend more time on wait lists. This is disparate impact discrimination against blacks, say the lefties.

    Since blacks are lying more often in the GSS about donating blood, what should be assumed about the other responses?

  6. Bill, thanks for that. There is also evidence from self-report criminological research that blacks under-report their crimes compared to whites.


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