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Monday, August 20, 2012

America’s Generosity Divide - How America Gives - The Chronicle of Philanthropy

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.
That's one of the findings in a new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The study is based on the most recent available Internal Revenue Service records of Americans who itemized their deductions. According to the study, taxpayers who earned $50,000 or more in 2008 donated a median of 4.7 percent of their discretionary income to charitable causes.

The website includes many fascinating interactive maps in which you can narrow your curiosity about charitable giving by state, city, even ZIP code. And you can narrow it by income level and various demographics within those geographic areas.

Some other revealing findings:
  • 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.
  • State policies that promote giving can make a significant difference. At least 13 states now offer special tax benefits to charity donors. ...
  • 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. ...
Although I didn't see background information on this explanation, the article at the link says:
The reasons for the discrepancies among states, cities, neighborhoods are rooted in part in each area’s political philosophy about the role of government versus charity.
But that makes logical makes sense to me. The article quotes Bruce Katz, vice president at the Brookings Institution and "an expert on the nation’s cities":
Mr. Katz says local governments should be thinking hard about how to encourage giving because “we don’t have the welfare programs that we have had in the past. The need for individual giving is greater than it has been in modern memory.”
Some data reported at the site is available only to paid subscribers of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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