Our interest in generosity was sparked by our earlier research in Kolkata, India, where we found that micro-finance group meetings seemed to affect household outcomes through social as well as financial channels . This got us thinking about the various social dimensions of financial access.
Generosity is an interesting case, because we know that informal networks of assistance and risk-sharing are incredibly important in low-income settings. We also expect that micro-finance might affect generosity by way of several channels. Given access to affordable loans, borrowers’ capacity to be generous should improve. However, ready access to formal lending may also reduce the community’s need for generosity.
Finally, the social aspect of micro-finance groups may broaden and deepen the social networks within which generosity is practiced. All of this intrigued us, and got us thinking about research designs that would help us to understand these effects in the real world.