American are a giving people … but so are many others.

Giving during the holidaysComing off of Thanksgiving Day and heading into the remaining holidays of the year, with their emphasis on “giving,” it’s tempting for we Americans to think of ourselves as a generous people.

Which we are.  The latest comparative analysis proves the point.

In fact, America is tied with one other country as the most generous in the world.

And that other country is … wait for it … Myanmar.

That is correct:  the United States and Myanmar (Burma) each scored a 64% generosity rating in the recently published World Giving Index.  The two nations were followed closely by Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia.

The World Giving Index is actually an aggregated figure, calculated based on three kinds of giving:

  • Volunteering of time
  • Donating money
  • Helping a stranger

World Giving IndexData was collected in field research carried out across more than 140 countries via Gallup’s World View World Poll, then compiled by international research firm CAF-America for creating the World Giving Index based interview questions that measured the behaviors of people during the 30-day period prior to interviewing.

A sampling of adults in each of the countries was interviewed, with the percentages of people participating in each of the three behavioral attributes collected.  The scores were amalgamated to determine the overall index score per country.

How did the United States achieve its first-place tie?  It ranked #1 among all surveyed countries in helping a stranger (a participation score of 79%) … #5 in volunteering of time (a score of 44%) … and #9 in donating money (a score of 68%).

Myanmar’s route to the shared top spot was different:  It ranked #1 for donating money (a participation score of 91%) … #2 for volunteering time (a score of 51%), but only #49 for helping a stranger (a score of 49%).

2014 World Giving Index Heat Map by CAF
This 2014 World Giving Index “heat map” shows which nations are the most generous. (Gallup survey data amalgamated by CAF.)

For the record, here’s how the Top 10 countries fared in terms of their overall World Giving Index scores:

  • #1 (tie) USA:  64% World Giving Index score
  • #1 (tie) Myanmar:  64%
  • #3 (tie) Canada:  60%
  • #3 (tie) Ireland:  60%
  • #5 New Zealand:  58%
  • #6 Australia:  56%
  • #7 (tie) Malaysia:  55%
  • #7 (tie) United Kingdom:  55%
  • #9 (tie) Sri Lanka:  54%
  • #9 (tie) Trinidad & Tobago:  54%

Looking at the Top 10 list – and also at where the other countries surveyed fell further down the roster – it appears that living in a prosperous economy doesn’t necessarily translate into being more charitable.

If that were the case, we’d see the G20 economies making up the top tier — which they don’t.

“Aspiring” economies also don’t show up particularly well, either.  The so-called BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are nowhere to be found in the Top 10 ranking.

The MINT nations (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) are no-shows, too.

Myanmar poses a very interesting case.  It’s 91% rating of people giving money reflects a practice of charitable giving (daana) that is a centerpiece tenets of religious observance amongst the Theravada Buddhists that thrive in the country.

And in the United States, charitable giving participation rates have grown significantly in the years since the Great Recession, so that today about two-thirds of adults reported donating money within 30 days of when they were interviewed.

For more details on the comparative study and the world rankings, click here.

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