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Long Term Study Finds Donations From The ‘Super-Rich’ Perpetuate Social Inequalities

Mon Mar 15 2021

Donations by the super-rich’ have done almost nothing to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor

A study, just released by researchers at the University of Bath School of Management and Newcastle University Business School has concluded that large-scale donations made by the ‘super-rich’ has done almost nothing to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor and has in fact, perpetuated social inequalities in developing countries.

 

The study, titled, Elite Philanthropy in the United States and the United Kingdom in the New Age of Inequalities, finds that wealthy individuals or corporations making large donations to developing countries actually preserves social equality whilst also benefiting the original donor in the form of influence within said counties society and politics.

It also points out that, even considering the above, large donations often come with caveats, enabling the ‘super-rich’ to pursue their own political and personal agendas through major charitable institutions as well as influencing Governments and educational establishments that tend to attract the lions share of the largest donations.

 

The study listed multiple incentives for the super-wealthy to continue donating, including the amassing of ‘social and cultural capital’ in the form of receiving honours for their services to the NonProfit sector. These donations then were used by donors to buy their way into circles of ‘influence and networks’.

 

There are also major tax advantages to large-scale donations, with the researchers reporting that attempts to reform tax issues to prevent manipulation by the super-wealthy (such as a cap on tax relief for donations) repeatedly failed as philanthropists used the influence their donations had brought them to oppose any changes to the current system.

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The findings could be difficult for people to come to terms with.

Some very wealthy people had given away sizeable parts of their fortunes, but the research showed that most of their peers had not, with combined donations amounting to only a small percentage of the total wealth of the super-rich. The fact is most super-wealthy people give very little relative to their means. We do accept that many elite philanthropists act sincerely to improve the lives of others, but we suggest that altruism alone does not explain their actions. It is far more likely that philanthropy yields substantive rewards beyond the emotional satisfactions of beneficence – and our research bears this out.

Professor Mairi Maclean - University of Bath School of Management

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Mon Mar 15 2021

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