Tis’ the season … for caring.
District residents are among the most caring in the United States, according to a new study from the D.C.-based personal finance website WalletHub.
And D.C.’s neighbors to the north, Baltimore, had the most volunteering hours per capita, according to researchers.
The study’s authors noted that caring means having a connection with others and being concerned for their well-being. And it can be expressed in multiple ways — from helping an elderly person cross the street to fighting a house fire. But certain parts of America put this into practice more than others.
As a whole, Americans have shown their care through charitable giving more and more. According to Giving USA, Americans donated over $427 billion in 2018.
But, researchers noted that, even if people can’t afford to give away their income, there are plenty of other ways to show kindness to others — like volunteering time and expertise.
The study compared the 100 largest cities across 39 key indicators of a compassionate spirit.
The data set ranges from share of sheltered homeless persons to number of volunteering hours per capita to share of income donated to charity.
Overall, Virginia Beach, Virginia, ranked as the most caring city in the nation, while the District ranked 18th on the list.
“The human species is biologically wired to survive and thrive through connected relationships,” said Debbie Minsky-Kelly, a WalletHub expert, director of field instruction and a clinical assistant professor, at the School of Social Work at Carthage College in Wisconsin.
“By providing care for children and other relatives within supportive family homes, citizens are contributing to their communities and saving government resources in many other ways,” Minsky-Kelly said.
The professor added that she supports the idea of the government compensating individuals who provide care for children and other relatives.
“Without family-based care of children, foster placements would be necessary, and there are financial and human costs to these arrangements, which provide much less stability to children than relatives do,” Minsky-Kelly said. “In the case of elderly family members, family-based placements save government insurance programs the high cost of nursing facilities.
“Additionally, elderly individuals are less likely to contract communicable diseases in a home setting and further benefit from the psychological safety they gain from being around familiar loved ones,” she said. “By financially compensating family members who take on these roles, the stress of managing full-time employment and caretaking roles can be minimized. This lessens the likelihood of abuse occurring in these high-stress situations because financial compensation would allow caretakers to care for themselves while caring for others.”
Communities need to engage their citizens in designing programs — particularly citizens who need services, said Kendra Stewart, a WalletHub expert who is professor and director of the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston.
“It is only when considering the perspectives of those who are facing economic challenges that we can adequately address the systemic issues that prevent some citizens from becoming economically secure,” Stewart said.