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Charitable Giving in Times of Covid-19: Do Crises Forward the Better or the Worse in Individuals?


Why did some individuals react to the Covid-19 crisis in a pro-social manner, whereas others withdrew from society? To shed light onto this question, we investigated changing patterns of charitable giving during the pandemic.

Using survey data of 2,000 individuals from Germany and Austria, we find evidence for the central claim of terror management theory (Becker, 1973): Not the crisis per se, but personal affectedness on a psychological, financial or physiological level leads individuals to change their giving behaviour. About half of the respondents in our study seem to be able to cope with the existential anxiety triggered by the pandemic in a productive manner, namely by increasing their pro-social behaviour. The other half of respondents that was severely affected on a personal level seem to stay overwhelmed by anxieties, leading them to withdraw from society and previous social behaviours. The study highlights that crises do not necessarily forward the best in people – constant bombardment with anxiety-triggering news can impede solidarity and pro-social coping mechanisms.


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