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SWRI Study Says Charities Will Benefit From Vast Wealth Transfer

(10-22-99) - A new study by the Boston College Social Welfare Research Institute estimates that staggering sums of wealth, from $41 trillion to $136 trillion, will be transferred over the next 55 years from all adults alive today to heirs, charities, taxes and other recipients.

Titled "Millionaires and the Millennium: New Estimates of the Forthcoming Wealth Transfer and the Prospects for a Golden Age of Philanthropy," the study by SWRI Director Prof. Paul Schervish (Sociology) and Associate Director John Havens cites new estimates of wealth and "a greater predilection for philanthropy" in predicting that "a golden age of charitable giving is dawning," especially among the wealthy and the most affluent.

The study, reported in the Oct. 20 New York Times, is based on a new model developed by Schervish and Havens of how wealth is accumulated and transferred.

Its forecast of $41 trillion in wealth transfers over the next 55 years was received favorably in Washington, DC, where the statistic was included by the Council of Economic Advisors in a fact sheet accompanying the first-ever White House Conference on Philanthropy, hosted on Oct. 22 by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The SWRI researchers see charities benefiting from a healthy boost in giving over the next half-century, receiving bequests of $6 trillion to $25 trillion between now and 2055.

Previously, the most frequently cited figure had valued the forthcoming transfer of wealth in the United States at $10.4 trillion. SWRI estimates that even at the minimum $41 trillion level, $6 trillion would be transferred to charity over the 55-year period.

"This is significant not only for its implications for charity, but for standards of living and spiritual life over the next few decades," said Schervish, who attended the White House conference.

"Wealth does not bring happiness, but it does bring choices," he continued. "For the first time in history, a sizable portion of the population won't be able to say to their children, 'No. We can't afford it.' They will have to make positive decisions about the use of their resources.

"That is a special opportunity and a spiritual temptation," said Schervish. "I hope people will turn their attention from the quantity of their needs to the quality of their needs -- and the needs of others.

Considered one of the nation's leading authorities on the wealthy, Schervish previously directed the Study on Wealth and Philanthropy, an examination of the strategies of living and giving among 130 millionaires. He has published numerous books on philanthropy and on the sociology of money, wealth, and religion, and is currently completing work on The Modern Medicis: Strategies of Philanthropy Among the Wealthy.

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