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Does Higher Income Make You More Altruistic? Evidence from the Holocaust


  • Mitchell Hoffman

    (University of California, Berkeley)


This paper considers the decision of Gentiles whether to rescue Jews during the Holocaust, a situation of altruistic behavior under life-or-death stakes. I examine the role to which economic factors may have influenced the decision to be a rescuer. Using cross-country data and detailed individual-level data on rescuers and nonrescuers, I find that richer countries had many more rescuers than poorer ones, and within countries, richer people were more likely to be rescuers than poorer people. The individual-level effect of income on being a rescuer remains significant after controlling for ease-of-rescue variables, such as the number of rooms in one's home, suggesting that the correlation of income and rescue is not solely driven by richer people having more resources for rescue. Given that richer people might be thought to have more to lose by rescuing, the evidence is consistent with the view that altruism increases with income. © 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Mitchell Hoffman, 2011. "Does Higher Income Make You More Altruistic? Evidence from the Holocaust," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 876-887, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:93:y:2011:i:3:p:876-887

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    Cited by:

    1. Subhasish M. Chowdhury & Joo Young Jeon, 2013. "Altruism, Anticipation, and Gender," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 13-06, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    2. Voraprapa Nakavachara, 2017. "The Economics of Altruism ? The Old, the Rich, the Female," PIER Discussion Papers 62, Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research, revised Jul 2017.
    3. Mervin, Merehau Cindy & Frijters, Paul, 2014. "Is shared misery double misery?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 68-77.
    4. Chowdhury, Subhasish M. & Jeon, Joo Young, 2014. "Impure altruism or inequality aversion?: An experimental investigation based on income effects," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 143-150.
    5. Hansen, Ole-Petter Moe & Legge, Stefan, 2015. "Trading off Welfare and Immigration in Europe," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 22/2015, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    6. Ole-Petter Moe Hansen & Stefan Legge, 2016. "Drawbridges Down: Altruism and Immigration Preferences," CESifo Working Paper Series 6204, CESifo Group Munich.

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