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Charity and the bequests motive: evidence from seventeenth century wills

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  • Leslie McGranahan

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Leslie McGranahan, 1998. "Charity and the bequests motive: evidence from seventeenth century wills," Working Paper Series WP-98-25, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-98-25
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-1093, Nov.-Dec..
    2. McGranahan, Leslie, 2009. "The widow's offering: Inheritance, family structure, and the charitable gifts of women," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 356-367, July.
    3. Paul L. Menchik, 1980. "Primogeniture, Equal Sharing, and the U.S. Distribution of Wealth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(2), pages 299-316.
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    5. 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 679-685, May.
    6. 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 1177-1198, December.
    7. 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 1447-1458, December.
    8. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 151-182, July.
    9. Joulfaian, David, 1991. "Charitable Bequests and Estate Taxes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 44(2), pages 169-80, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jeffrey R. Brown & Courtney C. Coile & Scott J. Weisbenner, 2010. "The Effect of Inheritance Receipt on Retirement," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 425-434, May.
    2. Konow, James, 2010. "Mixed feelings: Theories of and evidence on giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(3-4), pages 279-297, April.
    3. McGranahan, Leslie, 2009. "The widow's offering: Inheritance, family structure, and the charitable gifts of women," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 356-367, July.
    4. Säve-Söderbergh, Jenny, 2005. "Who is Willing to Let Ethics Guide His Economic Decision-Making? Evidence from Individual Investments in Ethical Funds," Working Paper Series 7/2005, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    5. Rocio S·nchez-Mangas & Virginia S·nchez-Marcos, "undated". "Reconciling female labor participation and motherhood: the effect of benefits for working mothers," Studies on the Spanish Economy 195, FEDEA.

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    Keywords

    Charitable bequests;

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