Charitable Giving: Red States vs. Blue States

People living in red states tend to be more generous than people living in blue states. That is the conclusion that one may have upon reading the Chronicle of Philanthropy report “The Politics of Giving”.

The report states, “The nation’s sharp political divide can provide a clue to fundraisers: The eight states that ranked highest in The Chronicle‘s analysis voted for John McCain in the last presidential contest while the seven lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.”

Here is the chart that accompanies the report:

An ABC News story *states the following:

Which states are more generous about giving money to charities? Red or blue states? A report by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, “How America Gives,” uses the most recent available IRS data from 2008 to find out.

The answer, according to the report, is that people in Republican-leaning states give somewhat more, mostly because of religious ties. The Chronicle studied individual tax returns and studied demographic characteristics such as religion and political affiliation. The report found that states that were in favor of the 2008 presidential candidate John McCain gave higher percentages of discretionary income toward charities.


[*UPDATE: The link to the ABC News story no longer works. ]

The ABC News story includes the following chart:

On his website, U.S. radio personality Neal Boortz says the following about the above-cited statistics:

 A new study has been released by the Chronicle of Philanthropy on charitable giving in the United States. Based on IRS data from 2008, what it boils down to is this: Conservatives are more charitable people. They voluntarily give away more of their earnings than liberals.

On a website that features discussion boards, I started a discussion thread about the above-cited philanthropy statistics. I asked, “Do these statistics mean anything significant?”

The response that I received depended on whether the one responding was a conservative or a liberal.  One known liberal responded by saying, “How much one is already struggling before they give probably plays a factor.”

Well, the claim of a correlation between poverty level and charitable giving won’t work.

Here is an excerpt from the Chronicle of Philanthropy report “America’s Generosity Divide“:

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.

So, the difference in giving between blue states and red states isn’t due to a difference in income level.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s statistics are based on data pertaining to the year 2008.  According to those statistics, the state of Mississippi was the 2nd most generous state in 2008 in regards to charitable giving.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the year 2008, the state of Mississippi was ranked #1 in poverty level, meaning that the state had the highest percentage of people living below the U.S. poverty level.

In contrast, the state of New Hampshire was ranked #50 in charitable giving and ranked #50 in poverty level.

So, the poorest state gave the second highest amount of charitable giving.  The richest state gave the least in charitable giving.

Why is that?

Town Hall columnist Jeff Jacoby answers:

Of course this doesn’t mean that there aren’t generous philanthropists in New England. It doesn’t mean selfishness is unknown on the right. What it does mean is that where people are encouraged to think that solving society’s ills is primarily a job for government, charity tends to evaporate. The politics of “compassion” isn’t the same as compassionate behavior. America’s generosity divide separates those who understand the difference from those who don’t.

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  • ackwired

    Conservatives are better people than liberals. Doesn’t that make you feel good?

    • herddog505

      Very true. It actually bothers us to take money from people to give to others so we can feel good about ourselves (or get elected). We don’t like raiding our children’s (and THEIR children’s) piggybanks and leaving a SOU (SOMEBODY owes U) in place of the money. We like defending the country. We don’t think of our soldiers generally as baby killers who go about air raiding villages in a manner reminiscent of Jenjis Khan. We don’t look at people of other races as patsies and stooges that we can trick into supporting us by claiming that somebody else hates them and, if not for us, would do terrible things to them. We don’t regard unborn children as “a burden” or an “unviable tissue mass”. We think that work is a good thing. We think that business – which puts people to work – is a good thing.

      So, yeah: we ARE better than libs, and (speaking personally) it DOES make me feel good.

      • ackwired

        Congratulations. Since conservatives don’t believe in taking money to give to others, I can expect the Romney administration to discontinue all of the corporate subsidies that are propping up these companies and preventing competition.

        • herddog505

          I hope that he does. No more sweetheart loans to politically-connected companies, no more special tax breaks for “vital” industries, no more “too big to fail” bailouts, no more “we gotta save this company ‘for the workers'” would suit me right down to the ground.

          O’ course, I doubt that he will, and even if he tries, there are 535 little piggies on Capitol Hill who will make damned sure that he fails.

          • ackwired

            Yep. It is a very corrupt system.

  • Brucehenry

    Ha. I think more conservatives are religious, and therefore more conservatives tithe. That ain’t charity in my book. That’s protection money for your soul. Extortion.

    P.S. In advance, lighten up. I kid you conservatives.

    • jim_m

      There are scores of other charities other than churches. That money is not counted as part of the tithe so many people are giving a lot to other charities.

      Additionally, the number of people actually tithing is really small. Your slander that this is just people giving money to their church and your bigoted assertion that it should not be considered charity just demonstrates the depths of your prejudice and ignorance.

      You added your PS after my remarks.

      • Brucehenry

        The PS was not an edit. It was part of my original comment.

    • Vagabond661

      Maybe not in your book, but the US Government allows a deduction for charitable giving which includes money given to churches as tithes.

      P.S. I kid you liberals.

      • Brucehenry

        Dude, I SAID “I kid you conservatives.”

        This is a non-issue for me. I’ve been on staycation this week. Nothing better to do than screw around on Wizbang.

        • Vagabond661

          And before you ask, I did edit in the “P.S.”.
          Enjoy yer staycation.

      • Aloanstar

        Money given to churches for any reason should not be tax exempt, but then churches shouldn’t be tax exempt either.
        P.S. I am not kidding.

        • Vagabond661

          Change the law then.

          • Thank you for your generous donation of opinions no one asked for.

  • Commander_Chico_Cognoscente

    Utah – Mormons are supposed to tithe 10% of their income. I suspect the other top states, like Mississippi, are also tithing, but to the likes of the Swaggerts. In other words, handing it over to charlatans.

    • As opposed to handing it over to Democrats?

      Doesn’t seem much different from where I’m standing…

      • herddog505

        Allow me a small correction:

        democrats don’t “hand it over”: they want OTHER PEOPLE to hand it over. This, apparently, is what liberals consider to be “virtue”.

        • And it works pretty well until they run out of other people’s money.

    • The issue here is the generosity of the ones who give their discretionary income to charity, not the effectiveness of the charities given to.

    • Winston

      I’m from Mississippi and live in Mississippi, and I don’t “hand it over” to Swaggarts or Bakkers or Hinns. I do tithe to my church and give to other charities. I also dedicate my time to charities and social/educational organizations. My church has local missions that help people in our neighborhood and city, and we have international missions to feed, clothe and house people in distant lands. There are many, many people in Mississippi who have very little or limited incomes, but we take care of each other. It’s not just about writing a check, it’s about taking care of one another and treating “love” as a verb.

  • jim_m

    Nice to see all the lefties explaining how they don’t think that when conservatives give to charity that it counts as charity. Why don’t you guys all pony up the money for your own charities (ie government ) or just STFU?

    • Like the rich left who complain that their taxes aren’t high enough. There’s not a thing to stop ’em from writing a check to the IRS…

  • Conservachef

    I don’t have a link handy, but last week I heard on the Mike Huckabee radio show something like the following..

    Biden says (regarding Romney’s tax returns) that his father always said “don’t tell me what your priorities are, show me your checkbook and I’ll show you what your priorities are” (big time paraphrase on my part). Huckabee went on to point out the charitable giving of Romney, Obama, and Biden (I don’t remember the years cited). Romney- ~15%
    Obama- ~6%
    Biden- ~0.15%

    I wanted to look it up, but I was driving at the time.

  • cameron

    Churches are not charities. You realize that don’t you?

  • cameron

    Is this propaganda. Giving to church is not the same as donating to charity. Show your data sources. What is your definition of charity? Are you feeding the poor? Any poor? Our feeding them your beliefs.

    • Conservachef

      This pretty much sums it up.

    • Warren Tenney

      I can’t speak for all churches, but I know the Mormon church is second only to the Red Cross in charitable actions, with huge relief efforts in the US and to countries abroad including feeding and clothing the poor, job training and various financial help programs. And that’s only the matter-of-record stuff. I know they and their members do lots more off the record.

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  • Guest

    The statistics cited
    religious giving makes up the bulk of U.S. donations>>>
    These statistics do not discriminate between charitable giving for humanitarian causes (e.g., Doctors Without Borders, NRDC, NWF) and those for non-humanitarian causes (e.g., presidential libraries, building luxurious church buildings and community buildings for parishioners) so no significant conclusions are possible. are ambiguous. Charitable giving is


    These statistics do not discriminate between charitable
    giving for humanitarian causes (e.g., Doctors Without Borders, NRDC, NWF) and
    those for non-humanitarian causes (e.g., presidential libraries, building
    luxurious church buildings and community buildings for parishioners) so no
    significant conclusions are possible.

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  • deanrd

    That’s hilarious. Republicans think if they give away an old can of creamed corn that has been sitting in the back of the pantry for the last 5 years, they are really “giving”. Democrats believe if they invest in education and give people a “chance” for a better life, it is they who are “giving”. What Republicans “give” no one benefits from for more than a single meal.

    • Texas_Accountant

      I am a conservative and took Catholic High School kids to Honduras to help at a Catholic orphanage. We spend time and money there and at other orphanages and schools. Didn’t give anyone a can of creamed corn, though. Maybe we can do that next year. Tell us what you have done, besides vote to spend other people’s money.

    • That’s hilarious. Democrats thing they’re generous because they use the power to the state to take money from others which they then redistribute (after helping themselves to a generous fraction) to those they consider needy.