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Charity and the bequests motive: evidence from seventeenth century wills

  • Leslie McGranahan
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    This paper researches the motivations for charitable bequests by looking at gifts to the poor in the wills of 1357 testators who died in Suffolk, England in the 1620's and 1630's. I find that wealth, religiosity, and the presence of family and friends influence testator generosity. The finding that wealthier, more religious individuals, and those with fewer children give more to the poor support an altruistic model of testator utility. However, the finding that individuals who give to more people outside of their immediate families are more likely to give to the poor contradicts the simple altruism model. This result is shown to be consistent with a model that suggests that charitable giving is partly driven by the approbation friends and families grant charitable behavior.

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    File URL: http://www.chicagofed.org/digital_assets/publications/working_papers/1998/wp98_25.pdf
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    Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-98-25.

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    Date of creation: 1998
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-98-25
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    1. Hurd, Michael D, 1987. "Savings of the Elderly and Desired Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 298-312, June.
    2. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1985. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1045-76, December.
    3. Altonji, Joseph G & Hayashi, Fumio & Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1992. "Is the Extended Family Altruistically Linked? Direct Tests Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1177-98, December.
    4. Boskin, Michael J., 1976. "Estate taxation and charitable bequests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1-2), pages 27-56.
    5. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-93, Nov.-Dec..
    6. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521663731 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Smith, Richard J & Blundell, Richard W, 1986. "An Exogeneity Test for a Simultaneous Equation Tobit Model with an Application to Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 679-85, May.
    8. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
    9. Joulfaian, David, 1991. "Charitable Bequests and Estate Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 44(2), pages 169-80, June.
    10. Menchik, Paul L, 1980. "Primogeniture, Equal Sharing, and the U. S. Distribution of Wealth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(2), pages 299-316, March.
    11. Auten, Gerald & Joulfaian, David, 1996. "Charitable contributions and intergenerational transfers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 55-68, January.
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