Friday, May 02, 2003

The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers: Two studies were recently that focused on the relative generosity of various cities. The first, by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, found that residents of Detroit give more of their discretionary income to charity than do residents of the nation's other 49 biggest cities. Here's the top five:

Detroit (12.1%)
New York (10.9%)
Fort-Worth (10.9%)
Denver (10.1%)
Wichita (9.8%)

While Detroit topped the list of cities, the Salt Lake City-Ogden region ranked No. 1 when The Chronicle analyzed giving in the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

Utah County (23.6%)
Bronx Xounty, NY (23.0%)
Davis County, UT (20.0%)
Kings County, NY (19.6%)
Price Georges County, MD (16.7%)

The likelihood of finding a helpful stranger depends strongly on where you are. This extensive study of 58 cities around the world found that people in some countries (and cultures) are indeed more helpful than others. In general, those living in richer countries appear to treat one another less kindly than their counterparts in poorer nations.

So if you were blind and needed assistance, or your leg was hurt, where would people be most helpful? According to Dr. Robert V. Levine, and his students Rio de Janiero ranks first, with Kuala Lampur last. However, the author cautions, a lot gets lost in the translation. It's fascinating to read the cultural differences of the societies where these tests were conducted, and how these influenced local residents' reactions.

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