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The Paradox of GenerosityGiving We Receive, Grasping We Lose$
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Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199394906

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199394906.001.0001

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Understanding Ungenerous Americans

Understanding Ungenerous Americans

(p.114) Chapter 4 Understanding Ungenerous Americans
The Paradox of Generosity

Beaster-Christian Smith

Hilary Davidson

Oxford University Press

Chapter 4 illuminates the second paradox of generosity: many people who do not practice generosity find that they still lack many of the pleasures and material goods which they believe would bring them happiness in life. Drawing on in-depth interview data from the Science of Generosity Initiative, this chapter demonstrates the consequences of a relatively ungenerous life. Compared with their more generous counterparts, ungenerous Americans are not as happy, healthy, or purposeful. Ungenerous people are less likely to believe they can accomplish much in life and seem largely uninterested in personal growth. As a group they are less physically healthy and more pessimistic about their problems. But the biggest difference between generous and ungenerous Americans revealed by the interviews concerns their levels of happiness.

Keywords:   miserliness, lack of generous practices, unhappiness, autonomous individualism, qualitative interviews

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