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The Approach of This Book

In this book we make use of a few key systematic approaches and themes. Throughout our various analyses we consistently explain two primary generous behaviors:

  • 1. Whether or not someone gives, that is, givers versus nongivers
  • 2. How much is given, that is, amount of money or time

Each analysis assesses how these two measures vary with a range of factors. The results show the contrast between givers and nongivers as well as between those who give more and those who give less. We do this in two parts because we want to investigate whether the processes that relate to giving (at all) also relate to amounts given. We can imagine that the factors that influence a person to participate in giving may be different, or at least have a different magnitude of influence, from those influencing the amount someone gives. This nuance refines our understanding of generosity in America.

An important caveat to underscore our assessments is that we use only cross-sectional data in our analysis, as this dataset does not have survey data on changes that occur over time. We do, however, have interviewee accounts of changes over times. Thus we cannot fully conclude that our findings represent cause and effect in a certain direction. Rather we know that the reality of social lives is complex and that cause-effect relationships can occur in multiple directions or be spurious to unstudied changes.13 Thus, finding that people are more likely to be givers, or that they are more likely to give greater amounts, if they have certain characteristics does not necessarily mean that the latter caused the former. It could certainly be the reverse. What we can conclusively state is that there are associations between factors that indicate potential causal relationships. It is those associations we investigate here.

 
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