A new study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy has found a huge divide in generosity across the country.
In some states, typical households donated more than 7% of their discretionary income, while in others the norm was less than 3%. A similar pattern held in the 50 largest metropolitan areas.
The study charted giving patterns in 2008 in every state, city and ZIP code, based on the most recent available IRS records of Americans who itemized their deductions.
Researchers focused on taxpayers who earned $50,000 or more in 2008.These taxpayers contributed a median of 4.7% of their discretionary income to charity—$135 billion of the $214 billion donated by all individuals in 2008.
- Middle-class households gave a much larger share of their discretionary income to charitable causes than wealthy ones
- People making more than $200,000 a year who lived in diverse neighborhoods were more generous than their counterparts who lived in wealthy neighborhoods
- “Red” states were more generous than “blue” states
- Tax incentives significantly influenced giving
The study found that religion powerfully influenced giving patterns across the country. Deeply religious locales were more generous than those that were less religious.
Among the 10 most generous states, two had large Mormon populations, and seven were located in the Bible Belt.
However, the geography changed dramatically when religious giving was factored out. For example, when secular gifts alone were counted, New York leapt to the no. 2 most generous state from no. 18, and Pennsylvania zoomed up to no. 4 from no. 40.
Following are the 10 most generous states in the Chronicle’s survey.
The typical Maryland household donated 5.7% of its discretionary income to charity in 2008. The state ranked 11th in terms of total charitable contributions—$3.8 billion.