Generosity Index

You need to know about the annual Generosity Index  which is an interesting measure (at least to us numbers geeks) of how generous people are. This link is to the 2011 publication of the 2009 tax data. The compilers gather data from the US Internal Revenue Service (Canada is in the survey but in this blog I’m referring only to the US). They gather data by state:

  • Total amount of income on all the tax docs filed
  • Total number of tax filers
  • Total number of tax filers that made a charitable contribution
  • Total amount given to charities

The data is sliced and diced in two primary ways: 1) percentage of total aggregate income given to charity and 2) amount of average charitable donation. Those two are merged to get the Generosity Index and then states are ranked by each of these.

It is interesting to see the number of tax filers in a specific state but we don’t know if these donors gave $10 or $10,000 so I prefer to look at the percentage of income that is given to charities. That percentage is very telling about those who are inclined to be generous with their money. BTW, by far the largest recipient of charitable dollars are churches – no one else comes close.

  • The most generous state is Utah whose residents give an average of 3.09% of all their income to charities. The second is Georgia whose tax filers give away 1.85% of their collective income. There is a big drop from #1 to #2 and that is due to the Mormon emphasis on tithing.
  • The top ten most generous states are
    • 1. Utah
    • 2. Georgia
    • 3. Alabama
    • 4. Maryland
    • 5. South Carolina
    • 6. Idaho
    • 7. North Carolina
    • 8. Oklahoma
    • 9. Mississipp and New York (tie)
  • The top ten stingiest states are
    • 41. Ohio
    • 42. New Mexico
    • 43. Arkansas
    • 44. Hawaii
    • 45. Rhode Island
    • 46. West Virginia
    • 47. New Hampshire and Vermont (tie)
    • 49. Maine
    • 50. North Dakota

Generalizations are rarely correct but there are interesting patterns

  • Many of the most generous states are seen to be very religious (Utah & Idaho with Latter-Day Saints; Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi with Baptists and Methodists).
  • Many of the most generous states are seen as some of the poorest states
  • Many of the stingiest states are in the Northeast: Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine which is an area of the US that is considered less religious
  • Is there a correlation between faith and generosity – it would seem so (if we are looking broadly).

Years ago I read that research by Empty Tomb, Inc. showed some interesting statistics:

  • In 1932 the average Christian gave 3.2% of his or her income to the church. This is at the depth of the Depression, when people had less to give than ever before as a nation. It was a very, very tough time for the US.
  • Just before the economic collapse of 2008, the average Christian was giving 2.3% of his income to charity. During one of the most prosperous economic times in the US, Christians were more stingy than during the Great Depression. The figure of 2.3% has steadily dropped since, which means Christians are giving even less.

You can draw your own conclusions from this information. Here are mine:

  • More money does not make you more generous.
  • Generosity comes from the heart, not the wallet.
  • Being poor (a relative term in our country when we compare ourselves to other countries) means you understand better than others the importance of helping others.
  • A person’s faith and religion plays a large role in his or her generosity.

Lead On!