Younger Women Have Bigger Say In Household Giving

November 15, 2016       Andy Segedin      

Women’s expanding role both in the workforce and at home in recent decades is translating toward individual and marital giving habits. Women in the early and middle stage of their adulthood are more generous than their 1970s counterparts and have taken a more prominent role in influencing household giving behavior.

Gen Xers and Millennials in the 2000s were overall less generous than pre-Boomers were in the 1970s, according to “Women Gives 2016” – the newest report by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University. In modern dollars, pre-Boomers gave $624 per year in the 1970s compared to $430 annually by Gen Xers and Millennials today.

This disparity is driven by single men ($492 to $344) and married couples ($721 to $594). Single women are the only group that has increased giving as compared to the 1970s – $244 annually today compared to $213 four decades ago.

The study cites Census Bureau, Pew and other data to illustrate that household structures have changed since the 1970s – with far more individuals staying single until their mid-40s. In the 1970s, just 4.9 percent of men and 6.3 percent of women were never married at age 44. Those figures stand at 20.4 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively, today.

Individuals are also staying single longer. The average man was 23.2 years old at first marriage in the 1970s, and women were 20.8 years old. Today, the average age of first marriage is 28.2 and 26.1 for men and women, respectively.

When couples do marry, women’s influence in giving behavior has increased. Charitable decision making was solely made by men in 26.6 percent of young, married households in the 1970s, nearly twice as much as today’s 13.7 percent. Modern, large-giving households with women-influenced giving are more generous today than male-focused ones, large-giving defined as giving $600 or more per year. Women-influenced households give $1,385 annually as compared to $1,269 by male-driven households.

“Women’s changing roles within society and within the family have implications for philanthropy,” said Debra Mesch, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute and Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “Women donors should understand that they have an influence over their personal and household giving. Nonprofit leaders and fundraisers must recognize the importance of single and married women as donors; fundraisers who don’t know how to raise money from women simply will not be as successful as Millennials and Gen Xers step fully into their giving,” she said.

“Women Gives 2016” was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and was based on The Philanthropy Panel Study waves 2001-2013 and The National Study of Philanthropy of 1974. It is the seventh in a series of research reports conducted by WPI. The series focuses on gender differences in giving across marital statuses, age, income levels, and types of organizations receiving donations.

To view the full series, visit

  • Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
  • Women Gives 2016
  • women's philanthropy
  • Women’s Philanthropy Institute