30 Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Q. 5 (2001)

handle is hein.journals/npvolsq30 and id is 1 raw text is: 











                               ARTICLES




Wealth and the Commonwealth: New
Findings on Wherewithal and Philanthropy



Paul  G.  Schervish
John  J. Havens
Boston  College


   Drawing in large part on the 1995 Survey of Consumer Finances, the authors describe
   the pattern of charitable giving by families at the upper reaches of income and wealth, as
   well as across the income spectrum. The overriding empirical motif is that the distribu-
   tion of charitable giving is more highly skewed toward the upper end of the financial spec-
   trum than previously documented, and that there appears to be a trend toward becoming
   even more so. The overriding theoretical motif is that income and wealth are so thoroughly
   imbricated, especially at the upper end of the financial spectrum, that the analyses of the
   determinants of charitable giving need to shift from their currentfocus on the dynamics of
   income to a complementary focus on the dynamics of wealth.


In recent years, the number   of wealthy  families' and the amount   of their
wealth have  grown  to large proportions. The number of millionaire families as
measured  by net worth  is now about 4.5 million, whereas the number  of indi-
vidual tax returns registering adjusted gross income of $1 million or more cur-
rently approaches  250,000. A substantial portion of the people at the higher
ends  of family wealth and  income  distribution are what  we  might call the
young  rich, although  the majority of wealth holders  tends to be older and
aging. These  two groups  are increasingly being targeted by fund-raisers for
both inter vivos and testamentary  charitable contributions. For more than  a
decade, we  have  been studying  the role of financial resources (income and
wealth) in generating charitable giving by individuals and their families. This
research has  raised several findings  relevant to the relationship between

Note: The authors are grateful to the T. B. Murphy Foundation Charitable Trust and the Lilly En-
dowment, Inc. for their support of this research. We are also grateful to Platon E. Coutsoukis,
Mary A. O'Herlihy, and Adam J. Kidd for their gracious and competent assistance in the prepara-
tion of this article, as well as to Steven Rathgeb Smith and the anonymous reviewers for their care-
ful reading and perceptive suggestions.
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 1, March 2001 5-25
 2001 Sage Publications, Inc.
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