Reviews | Charitable giving has increased during the pandemic. Why?
As Elias Bruno, a 31-year-old construction worker in Panama City, Florida who supports five parents in Mexico, explained to a Times. journalist: “We’re struggling here, but it’s worse in Mexico. You must make all the sacrifices to feed your family. It’s only fitting that a report by the World Economic Forum calls remittances “the frontline workers of economic security.”
How should we make sense of these pandemic monetary puzzles? Why did pandemic cash break the precedent set by the Great Recession which plunged giving and remittances?
Jonathan Meer, an economics professor at Texas A&M University who focuses on charitable giving, told me this time was different because “between government transfers and discretionary spending cuts, many households found themselves in a much better financial situation during the pandemic”. As a result, many people were more able to donate. And certainly, virtual payment systems such as PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay and Cash App and sites like GoFundMe, which weren’t available or not as widely adopted in 2008, enable cheaper, faster money transfers. and more personalized.
But neither technology nor economics can fully explain why, in a time of financial uncertainty and physical peril, people would part with their money. Why give money, even without urgent and immediate need for funds? Why not just save it?
Because in our bizarre pandemic world, money has served as an unexpected social bridge. After all, despite the deep class, race and gender disparities of the pandemic, everyone has become physically vulnerable. This created a collective trauma that did not exist during the financial crisis of 2008 and which perhaps led to greater solidarity. Government leaders, movie stars and other personalities have caught Covid-19, as have people’s friends, family and colleagues.
In the case of remittance resilience, these international monetary transfers have persisted not only as financial lifeboats for families abroad, but also as powerful monetary representations of non-negotiable ethnic solidarities and kinship.
Money has worked so well as a social connector because it’s malleable. Pandemic money could be used as ordinary charity, a kind of politicized mutual aid, a personal gift or simply a big tip, depending on the social ties between the giver and the recipient.