The Less Selfish Class

I recently read a heartwarming article about a poor area in Cairo that has been collecting money for the famine in Somalia (here):

In four days, a local initiative was able to gather over LE40,000 ($5,000) of donations from this area to contribute to the relief effort in Somalia.

“We don’t have people dying from hunger in our parts, but we do know poverty better than anyone else in Egypt, and we know about the fear of going hungry,” said Gamal Abdel Maqsood, a scrap metal dealer.

“There are old widows who rely solely on charity to stay alive, who donated what I know is a really large amount for them,” said Sayed Kamal, another organizer.

Nagy was so moved by the images of the famine in Somalia that he began to make sure he didn’t buy any more food than his family would eat, so as not to be wasteful.

Ibrahim Hassan, a 14-year-old student, was on his way over to play computer games in a local shop, when he happened by the presentation.

“I gave LE5, and I had LE10 in my pocket, for the people who were dying,” he said. “This means that I will play computer games for 2 or 3 hours this week, instead of 5 or 6.”

Apart from the fact that this article reminded me of our common humanity and the fact that there are many good people out there, it also made me think about an important question: why is it that the poor usually donate more money to charity? Or why is it that the rich tend to hang on to their money more? Is it because the poor can empathize more closely with the situation, as this article suggests? Or is it something psychological and systematic about making lots of money that makes people want to hang on to it more?

“The majority of money we’ve gotten for the Somalia campaign was from working-class neighborhoods (like Abu Qarn) and based similarly on independent initiatives to collect donations.”

So far, the committee has collected over LE40 million for the famine in Somalia.

So basically around $5 million has been collected, and most of it from poorer parts of the country. I’m struggling to understand this.  Does anyone have any ideas?


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