According to a study conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Detroit residents gave a bigger share of their discretionary income to charity — an average of 12.5 percent annually — than residents of the nation’s 49 other largest cities. According to a study conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Detroit residents gave a bigger share of their discretionary income to charity — an average of 12.5 percent annually — than residents of the nation’s 49 other largest cities.
New York City residents gave the second highest share of income, at 10.9 percent. At the bottom: El Paso, where residents donated 5.8 percent of their income and Miami at 4.6 percent.
The study is the first to examine how housing, food, taxes and other costs of living affect the percentage of income donated to charity. It also makes it possible to accurately compare whether people who live in high-cost regions, such as New York or San Francisco, are as generous as those who live in low-cost towns like Angleton, TX, or Rexburg, Idaho.
The Chronicle analysis sheds light on some of the key reasons that people in particular geographic areas give more than those in others. Among the major factors is race: In counties and cities with above-average numbers of African Americans who make $50,000 or more, giving rates tend to be higher than in those dominated by European Americans of similar income levels.
In Detroit, for instance, four out of every five middle-income and upper-income residents are African American. And four of the six most-generous large counties in the nation also have more African American residents than the typical American county. Those four counties are Prince George’s, in Maryland, and three in New York City — the Bronx, Kings (including Brooklyn) and Queens.
In a second Chronicle study that looked at data on donors of all income levels: African Americans give 25 percent more of their discretionary income to charity than do European Americans. For instance, African Americans who make between $30,000 and $50,000 give an average of $528 annually, compared with $462 donated by European Americans in the same income range.
The Chronicle’s studies of giving by city, county, and state are based on Internal Revenue Service records of Americans who earned $50,000 or more and itemized their deductions, representing 18 percent of all U.S. taxpayers and accounting for nearly 54 percent of all money earned in the nation.
Those taxpayers donated $97-billion to charity, about 80 percent of the total $122-billion donated by all individuals in 1997, according to estimates compiled by Giving USA, the study of charitable giving published by the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy.
The Chronicle also analyzed U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for people at all income levels to determine giving habits by region of the country, class, ethnicity and educational level, as well as whether they give to religious or secular institutions.
The Chronicle’s analyses affirm previous studies showing the major influence that religious giving has in driving donations, not just among African Americans, but among all Americans. More than $3 of every $4 donated to charity is given to houses of worship or other religious causes, the Chronicle study found.
Giving rates are highest in the West, where residents donate nearly 8 percent of their discretionary income to charity. Even though Westerners have the highest rate of giving to secular nonprofit groups (donating 2 percent of their discretionary income to non-religious charities), the largest share of their giving goes to religious organizations (6 percent of discretionary income).
Among the top 20 counties for giving nationwide, 14 in Utah and Idaho contain a large percentage of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. In those counties, people gave 19 percent to 27 percent of their discretionary income to charity, in large part in response to the church’s emphasis on tithing.
While religion propels giving in the West, low levels of giving to churches in the