Study: Most Religious States Give More to Charity, Nonreligious Give Less

The most religious states in America are also the most generous, while those that are more secular have the lowest donation rates, according to a new study.

The study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy explored the charity habits of Americans from a variety of different angles, using records on donations in 2008 released by the Internal Revenue Service in its research. From the religious aspect, the Northeastern states, which were the least religious, were also the least generous in terms of charitable giving.

The five least charitable states in America were New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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Among the most generous states were Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina, with Utah coming in as the highest-ranking state in terms of how much residents gave of their discretionary income to charity, at 10.6 percent.

The numbers for Utah may not be surprising to some, as it is the headquarters of the Mormon Church, where members are required to pay a 10 percent tithe to remain church members in good standing. A similar cause may have come into play for Idaho, which ranked in the top 10 of most charitable states and also has a high Mormon population.

Notably, residents in the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City donated $478 million in charity in 2008, which was more than any other zip code in the United States.

Among political party lines, conservatives also appeared to be more giving than liberals. As an example, eight of the 10 most generous states in America voted for GOP representative John McCain in the 2008 presidential elections – while nine out of 10 of the of the least generous ones voted for current President Barack Obama.

"It is well known that liberals are far more likely than conservatives to be nonreligious," said Catholic League president Bill Donohue in a statement about the study.

"It is also well known that liberals talk endlessly about poverty. Yet in their daily lives they do the least about it: they volunteer the least; they give less blood; they are less likely to help someone find a job; and they donate the least. Their idea of charity is to have the government raise taxes, i.e., take money from others, and spend it on welfare programs," he added.

Donohue also pointed to other research done on the subject, such as from sociologists Mark D. Regnerus and David Sikkink, who also studied data provided by the Religious Identity and Influence Survey and noted that religious people are more likely to give money to the poor than the nonreligious.

However, the Chronicle of Philanthropy's assistant managing editor, Peter Panepento, argued that the results are more reflective of religious values and ideals than political motivations. He noted that Democrats are also less religious than Republicans.

"I don't know if I could go out and say it's a complete Republican-Democrat difference as much as it is different religious attitudes and culture in these states," Panepento said.

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