Friday, January 28, 2011

Want Your Kids To Visit You When You're In A Nursing Home? Then Be Rich

See Do We Really Only Care About Ourselves? What Makes People Give? Economists Say Charity Almost Always Has Strings Attached from ABC News. They talked to Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of the books Freakonomics and SuperFreaknomics (links to their Amazon pages are below).

Here is an excerpt:

"What the "SuperFreakonomics" duo found at retirement homes surprised them.

"If you're a parent in a nursing home, the best predictor that your child will show up is if you, the parent, are quite rich," Levitt said. "Children of rich parents are much more likely to show up in nursing homes than are children of poor parents."

But even that wasn't a guarantee.

"If you didn't have to compete against your brothers and sisters to go and get the bequest, you didn't show up at the nursing home," said Levitt.

It may sound depressing to think that's what drives us, but as Dubner said, "It would be depressing if we were all just cruel and selfish all the time, but we know we're not."

Americans donate $300 billion to charity every year, according to Giving USA 2009. Clearly, we are incredibly giving. So what gives? Is this pure altruism or does something else motivate us to give?"
The whole question of how selfish or altruistic we are is one of the more important issues in economics. We normally assume people act on their self-interest. We may be altruistic, but how much?

They also mention that good looking people raise more money for charity than average looking people. People like the benefits of giving, like when a college names a building after them. So what sometimes looks like an altruistic act might be motivated by self interest. And if people are altruistic, how come we never have enough kidney donors?

They also give a different view on the famous Kitty Genovese murder and the question of whether or not 38 people watched her get killed and did nothing.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything


SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance.

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