Nonprofits in Good Times and Bad Times


Need fluctuates over the business cycle. We conduct a survey revealing a desire for nonprofit activities to countercyclically expand during downturns. We then demonstrate, using comprehensive US nonprofit data drawn from millions of tax returns, that the public’s hopes are disappointed. Nonprofit expenditure, revenue, and balance sheets fluctuate procyclically: contracting during national and local downturns. This finding is evident even for a narrow group of nonprofits the public most wishes would expand during downturns, e.g., those providing critical needs like food or housing. Our new facts contribute to the charitable giving, nonprofit, and business cycle literatures.

Journal of Political Economy Microeconomics, forthcoming
Nils H. Lehr
Nils H. Lehr
Ph.D. in Economics