Human Nature

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 79–89

Altruism towards panhandlers: Who gives?

  • Tony L. Goldberg

DOI: 10.1007/BF02734137

Cite this article as:
Goldberg, T.L. Human Nature (1995) 6: 79. doi:10.1007/BF02734137


This study investigates an example of human altruism which is neither kin-directed nor reciprocal: giving to a panhandler. Data were collected on the proportions of passers-by who gave to panhandlers in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Three hypotheses were tested, each predicting that passers-by should behave “selfishly,” capitalizing on opportunities that, in an evolutionarily appropriate context, could increase mating success. Male passers-by, when alone, gave disproportionately to female panhandlers. Male passers-by, when in the company of a female partner, disproportionately avoided giving to female panhandlers. Male passers-by in the company of a female partner did not “show off” by giving disproportionately to male panhandlers.

Key words

AltruismPanhandlingSex differences

Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony L. Goldberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyHarvard University, Peabody MuseumCambridge