When local economic inequality is high, the rich tend to be more generous

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The study suggests that local inequality is associated with increased generosity among rich people in both places, which is contrary to findings at more aggregated geographical levels, pointing to contrasting implications of inequality at different spatial levels. Credit: Alexander Grey, Unsplash, CC0 (creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

Rich individuals living in communities with greater levels of economic inequality tend to be more generous with charitable giving and prosocial behaviors, according to a study published in PLoS ONE by Joel H. Suss from the London School of Economics & Political Science and Bank of England, UK.

Many studies have attempted to assess whether the rich are more or less generous than the poor, and whether this shifts depending on the starkness of economic . Thus far, the results have been inconclusive. Previous work in this vein has been conducted at a macro level, using state, region, and country-level aggregated data. In this study, Suss examined whether more specific economic data at the local, neighborhood level might provide greater insight into the relationship between and income.

Suss analyzed information on in 2018 from the US Internal Revenue Service, as well as 2014-2018 data on from the American Community Survey, using zip code areas (mean population 14,041; standard deviation 15,846) as the most granular community unit. He also analyzed data on self-reported and volunteering from the 2016-2018 UK survey “Understanding Society” (N= 39,289), comparing these with housing values to approximately measure neighborhood inequality.

In contrast to previous studies, Suss found local inequality increased the generosity of richer groups in both the UK and US when viewed with this more specific local lens. In the US analysis, more unequal areas also showed less generosity from the lowest-income groups.

In follow-up analyses aggregating his US data more broadly at the county and state levels, in line with the methods of previous research, Suss’ results reversed, showing increased inequality reducing giving by all income groups relative to the lowest income group (incomes less than $10k)—and underscoring the importance of the chosen spatial unit.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0286273

When local economic inequality is high, the rich tend to be more generous (2023, June 14)
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Preston’s economic development boosts health and wellbeing of local residents

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Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

University of Liverpool led research shows that the city of Preston’s approach to economic development is having a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of local residents.

The newly published paper by researchers from the University of Liverpool, University of Central Lancashire, Lancaster University, and Centre for Local Economic Strategies, investigates the health effects of Preston’s Community Wealth Building programme.

Preston, an economically disadvantaged city in North West England, has led the way in implementing a new approach to economic development known as Community Wealth Building. The approach involves investing local wealth into the local economy, encouraging the development of local enterprises, improving recruitment and employment conditions, and maximising socially productive use of land and property.

The researchers found that during the period in which Preston’s Community Wealth Building programme was introduced, there were fewer mental health problems than would have been expected compared to other similar areas, as life satisfaction and economic measures improved.

They found that the introduction of the programme was associated with a 3% decline in antidepressant prescribing, and a 2% decline in the prevalence of depression. Additional analysis suggested that, during the same period, the experienced a 9% improvement in life satisfaction, and 11% increase in wages, compared to expected trends.

University of Liverpool’s Professor Ben Barr, Principle Investigator of the research, commented: “As we emerge from a pandemic that has disproportionately affected the health and economy of the most disadvantaged places, new and inclusive approaches for economic recovery are needed. Our research provides valuable evidence that such approaches can help improve health as well as benefiting the local economy.”

Compared to the rest of Europe, the UK experiences some of the largest differences in health between places. Wide economic disparities between places within the UK are thought to underly these differences in health.

Professor Barr continues: “Our study indicates that the approach to economic development applied in Preston provides lessons for the UK government. Policies to ‘level-up’ the health, wellbeing and economy of disadvantaged places are often based on the principles of attracting inward investment into places such as Preston. However, such approaches have not always led to improved wellbeing and decreased inequality. Our research indicates that an approach focused on Community Wealth Building may be more effective at achieving wellbeing improvements and our work continues to understand this further.”

Tom Lloyd Goodwin, Director of Policy and Practice, Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) said, “The findings of this research are exciting but not surprising to us at CLES—local governments are active participants in local economies and CLES is working in dozens of places across the UK to support the implementation of best practice in . Time and time again, we see local governments working with their partners to use their assets and influence to support local enterprise and good jobs, within environmentally sustainable limits. Community building is emerging as a key tactic to realise this goal and this research continues to highlight its effectiveness as a driver of and well-being.”

More information:
Tanith C Rose et al, The mental health and wellbeing impact of a Community Wealth Building programme in England: a difference-in-differences study, The Lancet Public Health (2023). DOI: 10.1016/S2468-2667(23)00059-2

Preston’s economic development boosts health and wellbeing of local residents (

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