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Migrant giving culture boosts support for UK charities

Study suggests migrants are more generous to good causes than other UK households

Migrants are boosting donations for UK charities thanks to a "remittance culture", say academics, who also found that families sending money abroad were more likely to give to British charities than other UK households.

Researchers found that 42 per cent of UK households who send money overseas also give to British charities, compared to just 29 per cent of the general UK population.

The findings come from a new study by Cass Business School's Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy which examined patterns of remittance and charitable giving among UK migrant and minority groups.

Based on the spending habits of more than 63,000 households, the study reveals how the often-overlooked giving culture of remitters, now widely regarded as making a significant contribution to international aid, is strongly linked to financial support for UK charities.

Co-author of the study, Professor Cathy Pharoah of Cass Business School, said: "The findings of our study indicate that there is a relationship between remitting money overseas and donating to UK charities which cannot be explained simply in terms of the age, educational, or spending characteristics of the household involved. A common generosity may be driving all such behaviours."

In 2012, the World Bank estimated total UK remittance transfers hit $23.16 billion, a figure expected to rise by eight per cent this year.

According to Cass's study, five per cent of households in the UK send money overseas. Among these households, overseas remitting is worth an average of £31 a week, or 3.9% of household budget, and households that remit money are more likely also to donate to UK charities. Charitable giving represents around 1.6% of donor household budgets in the UK.

The findings showed that remittances and donations are often made at considerable personal cost. Over one tenth of households who sent money overseas were at risk of poverty, surviving on a typical weekly budget of under £166 for two adults.

Black or black British populations were found to be at the highest risk of poverty, and were also the most likely to send money abroad. They also gave the highest share of their budget to charity, 2.5 per cent compared to the average of 1.6 per cent. A quarter of all households who sent money overseas lived in London.

Professor Pharoah said the findings have important implications for government policy and its Big Society concept. "As government looks to empower communities to develop their own local resources at a time of austerity, norms of giving amongst the UK's migrant and minority groups provide valuable models for shared community responsibility, and of direct giving to extended family and community needs. Surveys of giving in the UK have overlooked such models."

She added: "Migrant communities should be supported in making use of the most tax efficient ways of supporting good causes at home and abroad."

In a foreword to the research, Shadow Minister for International Development, Rushanara Ali, writes: "Shifting patterns of population mean the trend for remittance payments is on the increase as more people than ever live and work abroad and feel a sense of connection to their country of origin, while also, as this report shows, giving to meet the needs of countries where they reside."

'Giving back to communities of residence and of origin: An analysis of remittances and charitable donations in the UK' by Professor Cathy Pharoah and Tom McKenzie of Cass Business School. The research was funded through a grant from Trust for London.

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