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Wealthy Americans, Philanthropy, and the Common Good (WP-11-13)

Benjamin I. Page, Fay Lomax Cook, and Rachel Moskowitz

Using a new data set from a pilot study of the top 1 percent of U.S. wealth-holders, this working paper investigates how wealthy Americans think about the common good and what they do about it. The researchers find that the wealthy respondents cite many potential problems facing the country as important and offer serious ideas about how to address them. Very active in politics, they initiate many contacts with high-level federal officials. Most of these contacts concern problems of broad common interest rather than their own narrow self-interest. The researchers also find high levels of volunteerism and contributions for charitable causes—including some extraordinarily generous contributions. At the same time, the study suggests that improvements could be made in the quality and, in particular, quantity of charitable giving in the United States. Additionally, the paper discusses various aspects of wealthy peoples’ charitable activity, personal characteristics, economic positions, and political attitudes and orientations.

Benjamin I. Page, Gordon S. Fulcher Professor of Decision Making, and Faculty Associate, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Fay Lomax Cook, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, and Director and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Rachel Moskowitz, Graduate Research Assistant, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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