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Do the wealthy feel obliged to help their community?

The 1% have been getting a lot of attention of late, thanks to the Occupy protests and the growing divide between the haves and have-nots.

The 1% have been getting a lot of attention of late, thanks to the Occupy protests and the growing divide between the haves and have-nots.

One of the big gripes many have with the 1% and capitalism in general revolves around contributions to society. Sure, the wealthy often create jobs through their companies, but some question what else they are doing for society. How are they using their wealth to help the less well-off to prosper?

This is a question that concerns the majority of the US’s high net worth individuals, according to recent research.

The study, by PNC Wealth Management, a member of the PNC Financial Services Group, found that 59% of American millionaires agree with the statement "I have an obligation to give back to my community".

That figure seems good at first glance, but reverse it and it’s not looking as bright - more than four in 10 don’t think they should be helping their communities, even if they are. Of course, there’s no doubt some people give without seeing it as an obligation. But feeling obliged suggests a recognition of how society has helped a person to succeed.

The study also found that 68% are planning to either cut back on their charitable donations or keep them at the same level.

But the report had its bright spots. About 65% of those questioned believed they should give substantial sums to charities to improve society. And those who are giving are more generous – there was a doubling in the number of those who donated between $25,000 (€19,328) and $999,000 to charity in 2010 (from 12% in 2008 to 24%).

The research also found that more than eight in 10 agreed that "those who have attained the kind of financial position I have" should continue to invest in private business and industry “as the most efficient engine of societal improvement”.

It seems that for much of US’s wealthy population, it all comes down to business. That’s where jobs are created, where people can increase their skills and where society can be improved.  

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