Where Do You Give?

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How America Gives

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently put out a study showing how Americans give, by zip code, by tax bracket, by politics and by faith. It’s a fascinating look at how different values and backgrounds can actually influence our giving practices.

According to this analysis, here are 5 findings from the study that may surprise you:

The rich aren’t the most generous. Middle-class Amer­i­cans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities than the rich. Households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more. In the Washington metropolitan area, for example, low- and middle-income communities like Suitland, Md., and Capitol Heights, Md., donate a much bigger share of discretionary income than do wealthier communities like Bethesda, Md., and McLean, Va.

The 1 percent really are different. Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities. When people making more than $200,000 a year account for more than 40 percent of the taxpayers in a ZIP code, the wealthy residents give an average of 2.8 percent of discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for all itemizers earning $200,000 or more.

Red states are more generous than blue states. The eight states where residents gave the highest share of income to charity went for John McCain in 2008. The seven-lowest ranking states supported Barack Obama.

Tax incentives matter. State policies that promote giving can make a significant difference. At least 13 states now offer special tax benefits to charity donors. In Arizona, charities are reaping more than $100-million annually from a series of tax credits adopted in recent years.

Religion has a big influence on giving patterns. Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not. Two of the top nine states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. The remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt.

It’s interesting to note that the study did not look at “religious states” according to Judaism. Perhaps eJewishPhilanthropy can help us out with that…

What about this study surprised you? Do you think you are more or less “generous” than your state? Your tax bracket? Your zip code?

Image courtesy of The Chronicle of Philanthropy

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