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Rich Russians Believe Charity Is More Important Than Rich Americans Do

Getty Images/John Moore

Editor's Note: This is QEData. It's a new, regularly recurring feature of QED that will focus on statistics that tell a story. 

Conservatives love to claim that cutting taxes on the wealthy and slashing spending on the safety net won't hurt the poor. In the absence of government welfare, they argue, the rich will give more away to charity, which can do everything the government is doing—only better. “The alternative to big government is not small government,” Senator Mike Lee said in October. “The alternative to big government is a thriving, flourishing nation of cooperative communities—where your success depends on your service.”

A new report gives us a new reason to be skeptical of that claim.

Capgemini, the wealth-management firm, surveyed what it calls high net worth individuals (HNWI)—that is, people with investments of at least $1 million. It asked them whether they believe spending their time and resources to make a positive impact is “extremely important,” “very important,” “important,” “somewhat important” or “not important at all.” And it didn't just poll Americans. It sought out respondents from around the world, providing a basis for comparing how wealthy Americans and their peers abroad feel about charity.

Here's what the results look like: 

Capgemini 2014 World Wealth Report

Worldwide, more than 60 percent of HNWI deemed generating a positive social impact extremely or very important. In India and China, it’s 90 percent. But in the United States, only 56 percent of HNWI believe making a positive social impact is extremely or very important. Responses in some other countries (Canada, the Netherlands, and Japan among others) were even lower. But the U.S. certainly doesn't distinguish itself.