Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Are more equal societies the most altruistic?

Ever since Richard Titmuss's landmark study on blood donation and social policy, the act of voluntarily donating blood has been held up as a rare example of true human altruism. In more recent times, advocates of more equal societies have argued that if we want more altruism - and thus a better and stronger society - we must also strive for more income inequality.

Some work I am completing at the moment is looking at this claim: that stronger, more cohesive societies are also more equal. One indicator I am examining is altruism, as measured by blood donation, and I thought I would share this finding on here.

The relationship between blood donation and income inequality (data available here)

The graph above shows a strong correlation (r=0.7) between income inequality (as measured by the 20:20 ratio) and blood donation (as measured as the % of the population who have donated blood). The relationship is also highly statistically significant (p=0.008), meaning there is little chance that what is observed is due to chance.

Of course, we should not take such evidence as the be all and end all in the equality debate; the above graph just shows a simple bivariate relationship. Nevertheless, such evidence seems to be adding up. It is about time politicians - particularly those on the Left - woke up to it.

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