Charitable Giving as a Luxury Good and the Philanthropic Sphere of Influence

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Using regression analysis, 41 years of charitable giving and income data was evaluated to determine if charitable giving is a luxury, normal, or inferior good, and to determine the income elasticity for separate nonprofit sectors. Total Giving to the nonprofit subsector as well as most nonprofit sectors (Religion, Education, Human Services, and Environment) is a normal good, while Arts and International giving are likely luxury goods. However, evidence suggests that Health and Public Benefit are likely inferior goods. This research makes three contributions. First, it offers quantitative data as evidence in the supply-side and demand-side debates. Second, owing to income elasticities, researchers propose the Philanthropic Sphere of Influence and postulate that as incomes rise, donors are more likely to give to causes from which they are less likely to personally benefit. Third, by evaluating charitable giving as a whole and then by each subsector, the research demonstrates that each nonprofit subsector responds uniquely to changes in income. Therefore, nonprofit sectors should be evaluated separately.

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