//Charitable bequests and wealth at death//

Atkinson, Anthony B; Backus, Peter G; Micklewright, John, (2017). Charitable bequests and wealth at death. The Economic Journal, 127, 605, F1–F23.



Type of evidence: Correlational-observational

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Our main findings are the following:

- to understand giving to charitable causes, it is necessary to consider a multi-stage process:

leaving significant wealth at death, making a will, including a charitable bequest, the conditions under which a bequest materialises and the form in which it is made;

- the different stages in the decision process are influenced differently by the variables that we have considered: age, gender, and our particular focus, estate size;

- the proportion of decedents leaving significant wealth rises steadily with age at death; from age 65 to 90, it is higher for women;

- the percentage making a will rises with age, is higher for women, and at first rises sharply with estate size- although it is still only 90% for estates of around -200,000, a level not far short of the top quartile of the distribution of wealth at death;

- 16% of wills included a charitable bequest; the figure rises substantially with estate size - from 10% for the smallest estates in our data to 50% for the largest of over 3 million; there seems a sharper increase around the Inheritance Tax threshold, consistent with a theoretical model of the tax's impact, of about 2 percentage points; and

- higher wealth at death is associated with testators being more likely to leave anabsolute bequest, free of conditions, and more likely to leave a bequest of a specifi camount to charity, as opposed to a bequest of a residual share of the estate; 30% of all charitable bequests have conditions attached. It is the rise in absolute bequeathing that accounts for the rise in the bequest propen sity with estate size.


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This paper has been added by David Reinstein

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