Who Gives?

America's Charitable Giving Divide

A recent study, "How America Gives" by the Chronicle of Philanthropy reveals that states where religious participation is highest, particularly in the South, give the greatest percentage of their discretionary income to charitable organizations. Conversely, states that are less religious give less.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy based the study on IRS records of people who itemized deductions in 2008, the most recent year statistics were available.

The most generous states were Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The least generous were New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Utah residents gave 10.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity. New Hampshire residents gave 2.5 percent.

Contrary to what one might expect, the wealthy aren’t the most generous. Middle-class Americans give a much larger share of their discretionary income to charities than the wealthy, with households earning $50,000 to $75,000 giving an average of 7.6 percent, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.

The report also found that the eight states where residents gave the highest share of income to charity voted for Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008, while the seven lowest ranking states supported Barack Obama.

"Liberals are the least likely to help the poor," said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. "That’s the inescapable conclusion of this new study."

The results of the study are consistent with other research conducted on the subject. Sociologists Mark D. Regnerus and David Sikkink examined data in the Religious Identity and Influence Survey and came to a similar conclusion, as did Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, in his book "Who Really Cares," and David Campbell and Robert Putnam in their book "American Grace."