Measuring Altruism

TitleMeasuring Altruism
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsZhou, J
InstitutionUniversity of Colorado, Boulder
CityBoulder, CO

Altruism relates to the main goal of socialization, to a core attribute of personality,
and to theories concerned with human nature (Krebs, 1970). However, little economic
literature has directly measured altruism. Does altruism exist in people’s economic
behavior? Does it vary systematically with relationships and demographics? Utilizing
the Health and Retirement Study’s rich information on altruistic behavior, I structurally
estimate a measure of altruism and find that altruism exists and that after controlling
for demographics and behavior, the level of altruism increases with the intimacy of
relationships. Senior white people who are healthier and have more children are more
altruistic than others. People measured as being more selfless tend to retire later, to
save more before retirement and for precautionary purposes, to be more likely to leave
a bequest greater than $10,000, to transfer more than $500 to children while alive, and
to spend more than 100 hours helping a grandchild.

Citation Key11271