Giving and happiness refers to the apparent causal relationship that exists between prosocial spending and subjective wellbeing.

When a person donates money that they could have spent on themselves, the resulting change in wellbeing depends not only on the welfare loss from forgone self-interested spending, but also on possible welfare gains associated with the perception that the spending will help other people or promote a worthy cause. The net causal impact of giving on happiness can thus be analyzed as the sum of these two effects.

Within the effective altruism community, the relationship between giving and happiness has attracted some attention because it bears on a number of debates of interest, such as debates concerning altruistic motivation and the demandingness of morality.

Further reading

Dalton, Max (2020) Some extremely rough research on giving and happiness, Effective Altruism Forum, September 9.

MacAskill, William, Andreas Mogensen & Toby Ord (2018) Giving isn’t demanding, in Paul Woodruff (ed.) The Ethics of Giving: Philosophers’ Perspectives on Philanthropy, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 178–203.

Plant, Michael & Julian Hazell (2021) Can money buy happiness? A review of new data, Giving What We Can, June 23.