The Philanthropic Poor: Prosocial Behavior in Rural India

H. Daniel Heist, Marquisha Lawrence Scott, Ram A. Cnaan, M. S. Moodithaya, Matthew R. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study of philanthropy has largely been the purview of the wealthy and privileged in Western societies. However, the act of giving transcends race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, and socioeconomic conditions. This article adds to the philanthropic literature by providing empirical evidence of the prosocial behaviors of rural villagers throughout India. Using responses from a large-scale, door-to-door survey (n=3,159), we found that high percentages of rural Indians regularly engage in both formal and informal giving and volunteering. Even among generally poor, rural Indian villagers, socioeconomic indicators still matter (with the exception of education), and minority religions and lower social groups tend to exhibit higher levels of prosocial behavior than dominant religious and social groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1349-1376
Number of pages28
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • India
  • informal giving
  • informal volunteering
  • philanthropy
  • prosocial behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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