Showing Up after the Storm: Our "Fickle" Bleeding Heart?

Florence Neymotin 1  and J. Preston Jones 2
  • 1 Huizenga College of Business, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale,, Florida, USA
  • 2 Huizenga College of Business, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale,, Florida, USA


While usually lauded, "empathic giving" may actually lead to suboptimal outcomes due in part to the enhancement of tribal sentiments in individual interactions, as well as by decisions driven more by emotional, rather than rational, considerations in the giving process. This point is linked to recent suggestions that government should reform social safety nets in order to decrease these negative interactions, and increase their efficacy. To this end, we use analyses of the September Supplements to the Current Population Survey in order to explore and find a negative change in individual-level volunteering subsequent to hurricanes Katrina and Ike, but not after hurricane Charley. We also find variations by region, and in particular, in "Deep Blue" states, as well as by whether individuals were located in the hurricane-affected states. Our findings are consistent with the notion that empathy may lead to more problems, including burnout and stratified giving, with implications for a public or private call to action.

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