Working Paper

Charity and the bequests motive: evidence from seventeenth century wills

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.

Keywords: Charitable bequests;

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    McGranahan, Leslie

Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Part of Series: Working Paper Series

Publication Date: 1998

Number: WP-98-25