Volunteer giving drink to homeless man outdoors

(© Pixel-Shot - stock.adobe.com)

NEW YORK — Do you believe that what goes around comes around? You’re not alone! A new survey reveals that a whopping 84 percent of Americans subscribe to the idea of karma – or what you put out into the world comes back to you.

According to the poll of 2,000 adults, this belief in good deeds being rewarded seems contagious. Another 84 percent say they actively try to “pay it forward” with acts of kindness whenever they can. Results reveal, however, that bad karma may also exist, and Americans attribute bad relationships (34%), losing something (27%), and arguments with others (27%) to these bad vibes.

Whatever the reason, whether it’s to get their cosmic energy on track or general human nature, Americans report they are paying it forward in all kinds of ways. The survey shows that “paying it forward” most often includes treating their loved ones to something special (50%), giving generous tips (48%), and helping out a neighbor, such as carrying their groceries or helping them shovel snow (46%).

People also believe good karma comes from donating money to organizations or charities (40%), volunteering their time to help out friends and family (38%), and supporting small or locally owned businesses (35%). Results also show that the average American engages in five generous acts per week, totaling 260 random acts of kindness each year.

Beyond the mysterious karma-related benefits, these acts of paying it forward have real effects on more than those on the receiving end — Americans feel better about themselves (49%) and their life overall (37%) and feel more confident (22%) when they’re able to do so.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of banking app Chime, the survey also finds that the top three ways Americans define “generosity” include “going out of your way to help someone else” (68%), “giving your time” (54%), and “paying it forward” (40%).

When asked the biggest generous acts they’ve done for someone else, respondents outlined scenarios like, “[I] opened my home for a friend to move in during a health crisis,” “I overheard a waitress discussing some unexpected bills she was worried about covering so left her a $200 tip,” or even “I went to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina to work on restoring houses.”

With that, almost three-quarters (72%) of Americans consider themselves to be generous, despite less than half (43%) currently feeling financially secure. 

Volunteer helping homeless woman with charity donations
Respondents say ways to pay it forward include charitable donations, volunteering, and giving generous tips. (© zinkevych – stock.adobe.com)

Respondents feel the rest of the United States has some work to do and does not match their own personal approach to generosity, with 42 percent saying the country is not generous.

“These survey results highlight the generous spirit in our country, regardless of what they think about the world around them or their current financial situation. Despite only 43 percent feeling financially secure, results found that almost two-thirds (65%) are likely to ‘keep the chain going’ and pay for the food of the person behind them in a drive-thru, if someone else paid for theirs,” says spokesperson Sara El-Amine, Vice President of Community at Chime, in a statement. “We’re encouraged to see that the ‘pay it forward’ spirit is alive and well in this country, despite some of the current economic challenges everyday people are facing.”

Americans are most likely to pay it forward whenever the mood strikes (43%). Others are influenced by a good mood (24%) after someone else does something nice for them (18%) or even when a loved one is celebrating a milestone (13%). No matter what triggers it, results also show that Americans are more than five times more likely to find that their spirits are lifted more when they’re able to help someone else out than when someone else helps them out (72% vs 13%).

Looking toward the future, over four in five (83%) believe they’d be even more generous if they were more financially secure. Financial security and progress look different for everyone, but two in five (38%) say that financial progress means being able to treat their family and friends or being able to donate to charity (30%).

“Feeling good about your finances can mean more than just adding commas to your bank account. The results further emphasize that everyday people are considering others when managing their own financial progress,” says El-Amine. “Someone’s financial situation should not be the thing holding them back from living generously.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Chime between Feb. 14 and Feb. 19, 2024. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

About Patrisha Antonaros

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink

Editor-in-Chief

Chris Melore

Editor

Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor

1 Comment

  1. Archie1954 says:

    You needn’t wonder why the US is in such a deep state of decline!