Migrants and minorities boost donations for UK charities thanks to ‘remittance culture’

Migrants and minorities boost donations for UK charities thanks to ‘remittance culture’

News (International, UK)

Migrants are boosting donations for UK charities thanks to a “remittance culture,” say academics who found that families sending money abroad were more likely to give to British charities than other UK households.

Researchers found that 42% of UK households who send money overseas also give to British charities, compared to just 29% of the general UK population.

Five per cent of households in the UK send money overseas, according to the Cass Business School’s Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy study. Among these households, overseas remitting is worth an average of £31 a week, or 3.9% of household budget.  Charitable giving represents around 1.6% of donor household budgets in the UK.

Co-author of the study, Professor Cathy Pharoah of Cass Business School, said: “The findings of our study indicate that there is a relationship between remitting money overseas and donating to UK charities which cannot be explained simply in terms of the age, educational, or spending characteristics of the household involved. A common generosity may be driving all such behaviours.”

Based on the spending habits of more than 63,000 households, the study reveals that remittances and donations are often made at considerable personal cost.  Over one tenth of households who sent money overseas were at risk of poverty, surviving on a typical weekly budget of under £166 for two adults.

Black or black British populations were found to be at the highest risk of poverty, and were also the most likely to send money abroad.   They also gave the highest share of their budget to charity, 2.5% compared to the average of 1.6%. 

Pharoah told Philanthropy Impact: “Taken together the research results show how hard working many migrants and minorities are. They are less likely to be on benefits and show great awareness and care for their communities in the UK and abroad. We found the interviews very humbling."

Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with more than 30 migrants to shed light on their motivations for remitting. These include Ting, a 45‑year‑old woman from China, who works in the UK as a self‑employed tailor. Ting left her son in China and remits £800 per month to cover school fees and contribute to her parents’ healthcare. She also donates at least five times a year to breast cancer research and NSPCC, and reports that her last donation was £5 to breast cancer research.

Ting says: “I donate to charities through choice and it is dependent on how much I can spare at the time, whereas remitting to me is providing for my family and the basic necessities, and it must be a regular amount at a fixed time so they do not have to worry.”

Pharoah said the findings have important implications for government policy and its Big Society concept:  “As government looks to empower communities to develop their own local resources at a time of austerity, norms of giving amongst the UK’s migrant and minority groups provide valuable models for shared community responsibility, and of direct giving to extended family and community needs. Surveys of giving in the UK have overlooked such models.”

She added:  “Migrant communities should be supported in making use of the most tax efficient ways of supporting good causes at home and abroad.”

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