As an American, being cynical about other Americans comes rather easy. We're the most powerful nation in the world and, as Peter Parker would tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. I'd add that with great responsibility comes higher standards and an augmented level of scrutiny. Thus, it's easy to beat up the ol' U.S. of A for being selfish, bombastic, and unfeeling.
Of course, every once in a while sometimes comes along to grant you a little perspective. In this case, it's the announcement of the Charity Aid Foundation's 2014 World Giving Index, which ranks 135 nations of the world in the categories of giving, volunteering, and helping strangers. The United States and Myanmar are tied for first place. Thus, while Americans may still be selfish, bombastic and unfeeling, we're at least putting our money where our mouth is.
From the report:
"This year, the United States is the only country to be ranked in the Top 10 for all three of the charitable giving behaviours covered by the World Giving Index: helping a stranger (1st), volunteering time (joint 5th) and donating money (9th). This performance is reflected in a further rise in the country’s overall World Giving Index, from a score of 61% last year to 64% this year."
As for Myanmar, which some may find as a surprising co-leader, the report explains how the country also known as Burma can thank its unique cultural disposition for the ranking:
"Myanmar’s position is driven primarily by an incredibly high proportion of people donating money (91%). This reflects the strong Theravada Buddhist community within Myanmar, with its estimated 500,000 monks (the highest proportion of monks to population of any Buddhist country) receiving support from lay devotees. Indeed, the practice of charitable giving or dana is integral to religious observance amongst Theravada Buddhists, with it being one of the key paths to earning good merit. The position of Myanmar reminds us how important each country’s distinctive culture is in the predilection of its people to be charitable."
According to Nonprofit Quarterly, a nation's rank can also be influenced by disruptive global events such as weather disasters. An example is Malaysia, which jumped from 71 to 7 due to efforts to assist the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. There were also some interesting social findings as well. For example, youth unemployment typically means a large hit for a nation's giving percentage. Gender within economic systems also has an effect on likelihood to give:
"The report has also found that in higher income countries, women are more likely to donate money than men despite the structural income gaps; this changes when countries are middle- or lower-income."
And if you're wondering, the bottom 5 (ranked 131-135) were Montenegro, Ecuador, Palestinian Territory, Venezuela, and Yemen.
Photo credit: romrf / Shutterstock
For more on giving and being a volunteer, check out the following clip from Sheryl WuDunn's Big Think interview: