An updated collection of content on philanthropy and eugenics

Dec 14, 2020

Carnegie Institution apologizes.

In the wake of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s July announcement that it will remove the name of Margaret Sanger, a founder of the national organization, from its Manhattan health clinic because of her “harmful connections to the eugenics movement,” one of us again called for a full accounting of philanthropic support for eugenics.

Earlier this Fall, Carnegie Institution for Science president Dr. Eric D. Isaacs issued a formal apology for the grantmaker’s funding of eugenics research. After briefly overviewing that history, Isaacs’ refreshingly and admirably straightforward statement says

we have expressed our institutional distress over the impact of these actions by attempting to distance ourselves from our involvement in this morally reprehensible endeavor. There is no excuse, then or now, for our institution’s previous willingness to empower researchers who sought to pervert scientific inquiry to justify their own racist and ableist prejudices. Our support of eugenics made us complicit in driving decades of brutal and unconscionable actions by governments in the United States and around the world. As the President of the Carnegie Institution for Science, I want to express my sincere and profound apologies for this organization’s past involvement in these horrific pseudoscientific activities.

In the wake of the Carnegie apology, and wondering whether others will similarly hold themselves to account, we update The Giving Review’s collection of content on philanthropy and eugenics. It was originally published on July 18, 2019.


William A. Schambra, “Charity, Progressive Philanthropy, and Eugenics,” The Philadelphia Society, October 8, 2005

William A. Schambra, “Eugenics as Philanthropic ‘Best Practice,’” Philanthropy Daily, November 14, 2011

William A. Schambra, “Philanthropy’s Arrogance and Insularity on Eugenics Offer Cautionary Tale,” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, December 2, 2012

William A. Schambra, “Philanthropy’s Original Sin,” The New Atlantis, October 1, 2013

Matthew Gerken, “Modern philanthropy and the new eugenicists,” Philanthropy Daily, December 28, 2016

Ruth McCambridge, “The Long Tail of Philanthropy and Eugenics: Judge Trades Shorter Sentences for Sterilization,” Nonprofit Quarterly, July 24, 2017

Dylan Matthews and Byrd Pinkerton, “’The time of vasectomy’: how American foundations fueled a terrible atrocity in India,” Vox, June 5, 2019

Nikita Stewart, “Planned Parenthood in N.Y. Disavows Margaret Sanger Over Eugenics,” The New York Times, July 21, 2020

Eric D. Isaacs, “Carnegie Institution for Science Statement on Eugenics Research,” undated [Fall 2020]