Study: States That Give Most to Charity Are Religious, Republican, Not Wealthy

The states whose residents give the most to charity are more likely to have high levels of religiosity, less wealth, and were more likely to support Republican candidates in recent presidential elections. The states whose residents gave the least, on the other hand, were more likely to be secular, rich and Democratic, according to a new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Nine of the top 10 most generous states voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. Only Maryland, at number 10, voted for the Democrat, President Barack Obama. North Carolina came in at number nine and voted for Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012.

The rest of the top eight have not voted for a Democrat for president this century. They are, starting with the most generous: Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, Arkansas and Georgia.

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Of the 10 least generous states, only one, North Dakota, the eighth worst, favored Romney. The others all voted for Obama. They are, starting with the least generous: New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Wisconsin, North Dakota, New Jersey and Nevada.

The study looks at charitable giving as a percentage of income, after subtracting taxes and necessities, such as housing and food costs, to account for variations in the cost of living. Since Internal Revenue Service tax records were used, only families who itemized deductions and earned $50,000 or more were included in the study.

Two other correlates of a state's generosity are how religious, on average, the states are, and the median wealth of the state.

States with lots of wealthy people were among the least generous and states with lots of religious people were among the most generous.

Most of the states in the top 10 are among the lowest in per capita income while most of the states in the bottom 10 are among the highest in per capita income.

The study also looked at different neighborhoods by comparing generosity in different ZIP codes. It found that the wealthy in economically diverse neighborhoods – rich people who live near people who are not rich – are more generous than the wealthy who live in affluent communities.

Utah is, by some measures, the most religious state in the country and is also, by far, the most generous. The headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon Church, is in Utah and Latter-day Saints are required to give 10 percent of their earnings. Utah residents, on average, give 10.6 percent, according to the study, 3.4 percentage points above second place Mississippi at 7.2 percent. For comparison, the least generous state, New Hampshire, gives only 2.5 percent.

Dividing the country into four regions, the most religious region, the South, gives the most at 5.2 percent. The most secular region, the Northeast, gives the least at four percent. Northeasterners do, though, give the most to secular causes.

Writing for the American Enterprise Institute's Values and Capitalism project, David Wilezol noted the irony in the fact that liberals claim to care more for the needy because of their support for government programs, while failing to be generous with their own after tax dollars.

"Progressives often claim the moral high ground during political debates with their support for programs like the expansion of government-based healthcare and student aid, higher minimum wages and environmental regulation," he wrote. "But withholding charity dollars while building big government programs betrays a kind of cold paternalism.

"Charitable giving is imbued with a notion of self-sacrifice on behalf of fellow man. Progressives may understand support for high taxes and a broad government-based social safety net as philanthropy. But that kind of 'philanthropy' is objectionable. Not only can it never keep pace with the ever-escalating costs of the administrative state, but, unlike religiously motivated charitable giving, it also fails to build another, eternal kind of kingdom."

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