On my way to work this morning, I heard a story on NPR about a new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The bottom line: People on the low end of the income scale give a greater proportion of their discretionary income to charity than people at the very top. The striking key findings:
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.
The 1 percent really are different. Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities. When people making more than $200,000 a year account for more than 40 percent of the taxpayers in a ZIP code, the wealthy residents give an average of 2.8 percent of discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for all itemizers earning $200,000 or more.
You can also look at giving and income across geographic regions (indexed by zip code). In my neighborhood, where the median income is $53, 273, giving was 5.6%. In a wealthier section of the city, where median discretionary income was $85, 397, giving was only 4.1%.
Read more about the role of religion in giving and the differences between red states and blue states. There are some surprising findings in there!