Who gives the most?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy issued a new report today highlighting the giving patterns of each state in the US. What have been dubbed “red states” tend to give at higher levels than “blue states,” with Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina taking the top five spots. The six New England states round out the bottom of the list, with New Hampshire coming in last (though the Granite State is more purple than blue). Click here to see more.

Red states tend to be more religious than blue states, and much of the money given to charity in those states goes to churches and religious institutions. Once those are removed from the tally, the South and Midwest lag behind the Northeast and West in percentage of income given to charity.


A fascinating glimpse into the study shows that when the very wealthy congregate in one ZIP code, giving barely registers at all:

The Chronicle’s study found that when wealthy people are heavily clustered in a neighborhood—meaning that when households making more than $200,000 a year account for more than 40 percent of the taxpayers—the affluent households give an average of only 2.8 percent of discretionary income to charity.

That’s lower than the overall giving rate in all but four of the nation’s 366 metropolitan areas.

Paul Piff, a postdoctoral scholar in psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, says he has conducted studies showing that as wealth increases, people become more insulated, less likely to engage with others, and less sensitive to the suffering of others.

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Stanley Kopacz
6 years 8 months ago
Actually, I feel pretty bad.  I tangentialized the posting pretty well on this one.  The topic itself is more important than my anti-Romney jibes.  But sometimes I can't help myself.
Amy Ho-Ohn
6 years 8 months ago
Wow, this is a kind of embarrassing graphic for us Northeasterns. Especially considering how much we like to carry on about how conservatives don't care about the poor. Especially considering that we (Massachusetts, anyway) have a significantly higher per capita income than a lot of those red states at the top.

Here's an even more embarrassing question: is the graphic in Michael's link at all correlated to the one at the bottom of this page:


Is the real story here that states with a lot of Catholics give less because Catholics just don't really care about charitable causes? Doesn't it kind of look like it?
J Cosgrove
6 years 8 months ago
This is a fascinating study.  It is possible to play all day with the data, there are so many variations.  One of the more interesting things was the discretionary income by metropolitan area.  Cities in the so called poorer areas of the country, the South, often had higher discretionary incomes than many of the areas that I would have thought more propserous.  

It is possible to look at any zip code in the country to see the local giving patterns.  In his recent book, 'Coming Apart', Charles Murray has broken down the country by income and education and voting patterns are available by zip code.  It would be interesting to see just how, education, political preferences and other characteristics line up with charitable giving.  A lot of things are available by zip code through the census.
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 8 months ago
Utah makes sense. Mormons have to tithe. It may explain much of Romney's charitable giving.  Titheing gets you a better afterlife.  It's an investment.  One more thing.  This study covers overt charitable giving.  It doesn't cover money given directly to relatives or friends in trouble.  I've seen parents drained for the sake of their children.  It isn't hard altruism but doesn't it count to some extent yet flies under the radar of this study?
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 8 months ago
This is indeed a useful source, especially if we correlate it with other studies, which covered a previous version of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, provided by Nicolas Kristof in his NYTimes article, Bleeding Heart Tightwads.
The comparison of apparently parsimonious East and West coasts to the interior of the nation is even more startling when one considers that unless we count Danville, Virginia, as part of the East Coast establishment, not a single one of the top 100 of the 300 plus cities cited as most generous in charitable giving as a percentage of disposable income is represented by either a West or East coast city, the most blue of the blue areas of the country. Nor do things improve much when limited to the 50 most populous cities, with the top 5 comprised of Salt Lake City, Memphis, Birmingham, Nashville, and Atlanta, and the bottom 5 of San Jose, Allentown, Hartford, Boston, and Providence. Michael Loughlin makes the point that if church contributions are removed from consideration, the numbers would be significantly affected. No doubt this is the case, as would be the case if any major source of charitable largesse was removed from anyone's contributions. Yet those same contributors to their church, we find from Kristof's main source, are also more likely to give blood, volunteer at food banks, and contribute their personal time to charitable endeavors as well than their liberal counterparts who tend to be less connected with churches.
Michael makes a valid point in suggesting that those who live in relative isolation outside of community are more likely not to contribute. That observation would be reinforced by the major source of Kristof's study. Although Kristof documents that conservatives give more than liberals to charitable causes of all kinds financial and non-financial, the main study indicates that is almost totally due to being more likely to be regular churchgoers. The difference, apparently, recedes when liberal and conservative churchgoers are compared. 
Here is the NYTimes Kristof source:
What can we determine from this? Not, I believe, that conservatives are more intrinsically generous than their liberal counterparts, any more than the rich are more or less generous or greedy than the poor or the middle class. Rather that those who participate in community, such as church, which stress our obligation to each other are more likely to respond positively to the needs of others.

Perhaps more importantly, shouting at one another that Biden's tax returns indicate he was parsimonious, or Romney's failure to provide more years of tax returns indicate this or that, but rather the significant question, the critical debate, is: what actions have the best chance of improving the economic lot of all American citizens now and in the future, especially for those most in need? And which actions would be wasteful or counterproductive? Either confront that, or waste energy on negative ads and venting spleens.
Mike Brooks
6 years 8 months ago
I had never heard of "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" until this posting, so my first thought was to wonder who funded this research and what purpose it serves except to allow people to draw unfair comparisons based on an incomplete data set (as Mr. O'Loughlin did). 

As I now understand it, this is a for-profit publication for nonprofit organizations, and I presume that such published studies are designed to help nonprofits find donors and donations.  So, to use the data from this research to draw conclusions about the generosity of people in "red states" versus "blue states" and "rich people" versus "poor people" is a dubious exercise at best.

If you want to start drawing conclusions about the generosity of people based on their charitable giving, you have to at least figure in the amount of "charitable" giving that is being done through the collection of taxes used for entitlement spending and whether that figures into a person's decision to give voluntarily to non-governmental charities.  For example, people in blue states might believe that there is no need for charitable giving because they believe it is the government's role to take care of those in need.  Similarly, the evil rich people might believe that the amount that they pay to the government in their high tax brackets covers their charitable obligations.

So as I see it, using the charitable deductions listed on peoples' IRS forms is an unfair measure of their generosity and whether they are "less sensitive to the suffering of others."

Jim McCrea
6 years 8 months ago
"No one is excommunicated for not titheing."

However, to be admitted to a temple a Mormon nees a "temple recommend" from her/his bishop.  One of the conditions of getting the recommend is to be current on your tithing.

I know a couple who fell behind on their tithing because of extraordinary expenses and were not allowed to attend their son's temple wedding.  I am not making this up!  It happened in New Jersey about 15 years ago. 

Maybe a little more compassion is exhibited these days, but it wasn't there and then.
Bill Taylor
6 years 8 months ago
Mormons do not have to tithe? Of course they do. Mormons are big on "agency," as in you are free to say yes or no to things like tithing. But there are huge spiritual consequences if you don't. First, the bishop keeps track of things like tithing and if they have not paid, he will not give them a temple recommend, which means they cannot go into a Mormon temple. This becomes serious family business when there is a temple wedding, and it is also very public, with the whole family looking on in dismay. Second, if they don't tithe and cannot go to the temple, this means that when the day of judgment comes at the end of the millennium, they will not go with the rest of their family into the highest of the three levels of heaven. This causes huge family anguish, because going to the highest level of heaven as a family is THE major goal for Mormons. A person who does not go to the highest level of heaven will be excluded from the presence of the Heavenly Father and will not know Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost. And (if male) will not have a chance to go on to exaltation as a god, or (if female) will not have a chance to go on to exaltation as an high priestess or eternal companion.
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 8 months ago
I have a relative who converted to Mormonism so maybe I should know more. I am curious, though, do Mormons have to tithe on profits hidden in foreign banks?
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 8 months ago
@ Stanley (#3),
"Mormons have to tithe....Titheing gets you a better afterlife. It's an investment."

Wrong. Mormons do not have to tithe. As in many churches, however, titheing or support of your church in other ways is recommended. No one is excommunicated for not titheing. Nor is it claimed that generosity to the church per se will get you a ticket to a better afterlife.
They might well believe, however, that it might improve chances more than spending money as much of the Tinseltown crowd does on the big B's, Bugattis, bennies, booze, and broads. 


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