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Gates Foundation to Fund Survey of the Rich

November 02, 2007

Money_word Robert Frank, a writer for the the Wall Street Journal and author of The Wealth Report blog, reports that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with Wachovia, is funding a new survey of the wealthy (i.e., people worth $25 million or more) to be called "The Joys and Dilemmas of Wealth."

According to Frank, the study, which will be conducted by the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College (whose director is Paul Schervish), will "go beyond the usual platitudes about wealth and philanthropy." Most studies of high-net individuals, says Frank, come up with the same three findings:

  1. The wealthy like to give for various reasons, but mainly because they want to help make the world a better place.
  2. They are entrepreneurial in their philanthropy.
  3. Philanthropy is important for their "legacy" and for instilling good values in their kids.

Frank offers a half dozen questions of his own that he'd like to see the study address (Do the rich feel guilty? Does money make them happy? Which is more enjoyable -- making money or giving it away?), and then invites readers to suggest questions of their own.

In that spirit, I've got a few:

  • How does the manner in which you became wealthy (i.e., made or inherited your fortune) influence your view of poverty?
  • To what extent do estate taxes shape your philanthropy?
  • Which is more valuable to society, charitable gifts given to address problems in the here and now or gifts used to establish endowments in perpetuity?

What other questions would you include in such a study?

-- Mitch Nauffts

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