- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2012

Am I my brother’s keeper? Conservatives and churchgoers are far more likely to say “yes,” research shows.

A major survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy confirms that residents of states that lean Republican and are most religious donate more of their money to charity, while more secular regions — and areas that tend to vote Democrat — give less.

But researchers caution that churchgoers are no more generous than secular Americans when donations to religious groups are excluded.

The study, which examined Internal Revenue Service information from 2008, the most recent year for which statistics were available, ranked Utahans as the most charitable people in the U.S.

Residents of the heavily Mormon state gave 10.6 percent of their discretionary income to philanthropic causes in 2008. Mississippi ranked second, with 7.2 percent going to charity. Three other states in the Bible Belt — Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina — round out the top five.

Each of the top nine states in the Chronicle report voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.
The seven least-generous states went for Barack Obama.

New Hampshire residents gave the least, with 2.5 percent of discretionary income going to charity. It was followed by Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts, whose residents donated 2.8 percent. Residents of Rhode Island, the fifth most frugal state, gave 3.1 percent, according to the study.

“This isn’t a surprise at all. What you’re seeing [in the report] is collection-plate giving,” said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America.

“Those states with the highest levels of religious attendance are going to rise to the top of the list.”

Indeed, when tithing is taken out of the equation, the list of most charitable states changes dramatically.

New York, for example, is ranked No. 18 overall, but jumps to No. 2 when only secular donations are counted. Pennsylvania would make a similar leap, rising from No. 40 to No. 4.

Christians and Mormons are called on to give at least 10 percent of their income to the church (the word “tithe” means “tenth”), though giving by Mormons is generally much higher. One survey found that 90 percent of Latter-day Saints tithe regularly.

“The report shows that Utah residents gave 10.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, and that doesn’t come as a great surprise because the majority of Utah residents are Mormons, and that’s required by their faith,” said Joseph Grieboski, founder and chairman of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy.

“Secular contributions tend to be to secular issues,” he said. “So, New England and the West Coast, they’re more likely to give to the Red Cross, the arts, museums, whereas in the Bible Belt or in Utah, they’re more likely to give to charities affiliated with religion.”

Some analysts take issue with directly linking a state’s generosity with its religious makeup and argue that secular folks contribute in different ways.

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