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The widow’s offering: inheritance, family structure, and the charitable gifts of women

  • Leslie McGranahan

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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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-07-18.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-07-18
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  1. James Andreoni & Eleanor Brown & Isaac C. Rischall, 1999. "Charitable Giving by Married Couples: Who Decides and Why Does it Matter?," Department of Economics Working Papers 1999-07, McMaster University.
  2. Fairlie, Robert, 2014. "The Absence of the African-American Owned Business: An Analysis of the Dynamics of Self-Employment," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt49c4n0fg, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  3. Andreoni, James & Vesterlund, Lise, 2001. "Which is the Fair Sex? Gender Differences in Altruism," Staff General Research Papers Archive 1951, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  4. Clark, Gregory & Hamilton, Gillian, 2006. "Survival of the Richest: The Malthusian Mechanism in Pre-Industrial England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(03), pages 707-736, September.
  5. Eckel, Catherine C & Grossman, Philip J, 1998. "Are Women Less Selfish Than Men? Evidence from Dictator Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 726-35, May.
  6. Rooney, Patrick M. & Mesch, Debra J. & Chin, William & Steinberg, Kathryn S., 2005. "The effects of race, gender, and survey methodologies on giving in the US," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 173-180, February.
  7. Leslie Moscow McGranahan, 2000. "Charity and the Bequest Motive: Evidence from Seventeenth-Century Wills," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(6), pages 1270-1291, December.
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