The widow’s offering: inheritance, family structure, and the charitable gifts of women
This paper aims to explain disparities in the charitable bequest behavior of men and women. I use data on charitable bequests in wills from 17th Century Suffolk, England to investigate whether women or men were more generous to the poor when they died. Because of the difference in the legal restrictions faced by married men and married women, I choose to compare unmarried individuals. Higher proportions of unmarried men make charitable donations and men make higher average donations. I find that differences in the wealth, circumstances and family status of women can explain between 58% and 99% of the gap in the donation rate. In addition, I find that women’s attributes serve to depress their average donations. Based on these finding I conclude that women were not less generous than men despite the fact that a low proportion of total donations came from women.
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