Americans give ~4%, not 2%

Many EAs have cited the statis­tic that ~2% of US GDP goes to char­ity. How­ever, we usu­ally re­fer to per­sonal giv­ing as a per­cent of pre­tax in­come (ad­justed gross in­come or AGI in the US). If you add up all the pre­tax in­come in the US, it was only $10.9 trillion out of the GDP of $19.5 trillion in 2017, or 56%. This is be­cause growth in re­tire­ment ac­counts is not taxed (and you avoid tax on a Roth IRA at the end and on a reg­u­lar IRA at the be­gin­ning). Other ad­just­ments in­clude tu­ition, al­i­mony, etc. Also, there are many benefits that are not taxed, such as med­i­cal, life in­surance, em­ployer con­tri­bu­tions to re­tire­ment, etc. Also, there may be other parts of the econ­omy that would not be po­ten­tial in­come at all. This would mean peo­ple in the US donate on av­er­age about 3.6% of the pre­tax in­come. Here is a graph that shows a syn­the­sis of many differ­ent stud­ies of char­ity. You can see there is quite a bit of vari­a­tion, but I think it is broadly con­sis­tent with 4% of pre­tax in­come. Per­haps less cer­tain is the con­clu­sion of a U curve where the low­est and high­est in­come peo­ple give the great­est per­centage.

Though of course it will be differ­ent (and gen­er­ally lower) in other coun­tries, I think it is use­ful to have a com­par­i­son for things like One for the World, Giv­ing What We Can, and cur­rent EA giv­ing.

Some EAs also have goals of con­sump­tion af­ter char­ity re­lated to a mean or me­dian con­sump­tion. For in­stance, US mean per cap­ita GDP was $60,000 in 2017, but mean per cap­ita AGI was only $36,000. In the US, the me­dian ap­pears to be ap­prox­i­mately two thirds of the mean, so that would im­ply a me­dian AGI of about $24,000 per cap­ita (though this source has a broader defi­ni­tion of in­come which comes out to $32,000 per cap­ita me­dian). This is also rele­vant for hap­piness stud­ies; not only do we need to be care­ful about whether it is house­hold ver­sus in­di­vi­d­ual in­come, but whether that in­come is AGI or in­cludes other things such as benefits.