Social Capital, the State’s Structural Intervention and Donors’ Choice Among Charitable Causes: Evidence from China

Abstract

The impact of social capital on individuals’ giving behavior has been widely studied, however, most of the existing literature considers charitable giving to be one form of prosocial behavior without further exploring donations to various charitable causes and fails to capture the shaping role of the state on individuals’ giving preferences. We draw on social capital literature and deploy the 2012 wave of the Chinese General Social Survey to examine to what extent the key social capital correlates, including social networks, norms of generalized reciprocity and trust affect individuals’ giving preferences and the amount given to six specific causes. Results indicate that the effect of social network on giving varies across causes greatly. Attending religious group has the highest explanatory power of giving to Religious cause. Being any associational membership are likely to give to Poverty cause, and individuals holding higher institutional trust give more , the charitable cause prioritized by the state’s political agenda and where donation is predominantly channeled through the state. Norm of generalized reciprocity is an important predictor of the decision to give to Neighborhood. Except for individuals attending community-based association donate higher amounts, others are relatively less likely to donate to the domain of Environmental issues, the newly emerged causes whereas still suppressed by the state. This study contributes a better understanding that individuals’ giving preferences are not only driven by social capital correlates, but shaped by the state’ structural intervention in various charitable domains, which also sheds lights on future studies that explore giving behaviors in other authoritarian regimes.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    With an exception of the period of Culture Revolution.

  2. 2.

    The first charitable foundation, the China Children and Teenagers’ Fund, was founded in 1981.

  3. 3.

    It worth noting that in the CGSS 2012 questionnaire there are nine types of associations, including (a) political association, (b) community association, (c) public association (voluntary association or nonprofit association), (d) entertainment club, (e) citizen’s movement association, (f) religious association, (g) alumni association, (h) labor union, and (i) professional association. For this study, we only include four types of associations.

  4. 4.

    By law, men retire at 60 while women retire at 50 in China. We use the mean retire age (= 55) as the second threshold of age categories in the analysis.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and thoughtful suggestions.

Funding

This work was supported by the Key Project of the National Natural Science Foundation of the People’s Republic of China “Research on Organization and Model of Modern Social Governance” (71533002)and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central University (63202006).

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Gong, X., Ye, S. Social Capital, the State’s Structural Intervention and Donors’ Choice Among Charitable Causes: Evidence from China. Soc Indic Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-021-02609-7

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Keywords

  • Charitable giving
  • Individuals’ preference to give
  • Charitable causes
  • Social capital
  • Structural intervention by the state