Good Will Hunting: Do Disasters Make Us More Charitable?


Serhan Cevik

Publication Date:

February 3, 2023

Electronic Access:

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Disclaimer: IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.


Humans are usually compassionate, caring and empathetic toward others, but are we really hardwired for altruism when a disaster hits? There is evidence that people exposed to natural disasters tend to behave more philanthropically, but most studies rely on small-scale surveys and experimental data. For that reason, this paper contributes to the literature by investigating whether the COVID-19 pandemic has altered prosocial tendencies and charitable donations, using a novel daily dataset of debit and credit card transactions. I conduct a real-time analysis of actual charitable donations in three European countries and find that the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions have no significant effect on how much people contribute to charities as a share of total spending. A higher preference for precautionary savings in the midst of the pandemic appears to outweigh altruistic behavior, while government welfare programs crowds out private charitable donations.


Working Paper No. 2023/022




Publication Date:

February 3, 2023



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