- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
The Charities Aid Foundation has launched the World Giving Index, an interesting tool for measuring generosity. The index uses Gallup survey data on the percentage of a population that has given money or time to charity or helped a stranger to rank countries by charitability. The countries in the top 5 — Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, and the United States, are not all that shocking, but there are some surprises in the top 20 including Sri Lanka, Laos, Sierra Leone, and Turkmenistan. The people of Turkmenistan turn out to be the most generous with their time — though you have to wonder about the reliability of survey data in a country with a government as authoritarian as Turkmenistan’s — while Liberians are most likely to have helped a stranger.
Overall, the study concludes, generosity seems to be correlated more strongly with measures general well-being than with GDP. (Sierra Leone, which has one of Gallup’s lowest well-being scores is the major exception.) The numbers also don’t seem to be that closely correlated with governmental foreign aid. The people of Sweden, who have the world’s most generous government by far, are a relatively lowly 45th on the Giving Index.
On the stingy end of the scale are some countries that can probably be excused — Madagascar, Burundi — as well as a few that should probably be embarrassed. Rising power China is seventh from the bottom. Greece, which just received a second installment of emergency EU loans worth $11.4 billion and loses more than $20 billion per year to tax evasion, is fifth from the bottom.