The 5 Most and Least Charitable U.S. States

While Utah is clearly the most charitable state, the rest of the rankings depend on the measurement.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
May 8, 2014, 10:01 a.m.

In the battle for the most gen­er­ous states, the lead­ers de­pend on how you’re meas­ur­ing it.

Gal­lup on Thursday re­leased a poll that sur­veyed at least 600 people in each state ask­ing how many have re­cently donated money to char­ity or vo­lun­teered their time. It found that Utah is by and large the most char­it­able state, with 71 per­cent of Uta­hans say­ing they donated money re­cently, while 56 per­cent say they vo­lun­teered time, and 48 per­cent say they did both.

The rest of the sur­vey, which was con­duc­ted between June and Decem­ber 2013, shows high per­cent­ages of people from Min­nesota, Hawaii, South Dakota, and New Hamp­shire say­ing they vo­lun­teer and donate money. Round­ing out the bot­tom of Gal­lup’s list are New York, Mis­sis­sippi, Ari­zona, Nevada, and Ken­tucky.

Gal­lup ar­gues there is a cor­rel­a­tion between states that give more and score high­er on rates of well-be­ing, and states that give less and have lower levels of well-be­ing.

There is a dif­fer­ence, however, between say­ing that you’re will­ing to give your time and money and ac­tu­ally giv­ing it.

This is where ana­lys­is from the Chron­icle of Phil­an­thropy comes in handy. Using pub­lic In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice data on item­ized char­it­able con­tri­bu­tions, it found that Utah is still the lead­ing char­it­able state, giv­ing more of its me­di­an dis­cre­tion­ary in­come to char­ity than any oth­er state.

It makes sense that Utah would top both lists, con­sid­er­ing its large Mor­mon pop­u­la­tion. The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints asks its fol­low­ers to donate 10 per­cent of their in­come. Fit­tingly, ac­cord­ing to Chron­icle data, people in Utah gave 10.6 per­cent of their dis­cre­tion­ary in­come, which is more than 3 per­cent­age points high­er than the next state.

But the rest of the data shows a dif­fer­ent story from the Gal­lup Poll. The next four states in the Chron­icle ana­lys­is are Mis­sis­sippi (7.2 per­cent), Alabama (7.1 per­cent), Ten­ness­ee (6.6 per­cent), and South Car­o­lina (6.4 per­cent), which aren’t in the top 20 of Gal­lup’s char­it­able list.

The top four states from Gal­lup — Min­nesota, Hawaii, South Dakota, and New Hamp­shire — sim­il­arly are not in the top 20 of the Chron­icle list. This just shows the dif­fer­ence between the amounts of money people are giv­ing, as com­pared to wheth­er or not people from those states say they are likely to give.

One thing to keep in mind with the Chron­icle data, however, is that it meas­ures item­ized de­duc­tions. For those who gave money and did not file an item­ized tax re­turn, that data is un­avail­able.

So, there’s no clear met­ric on gen­er­os­ity across the coun­try. However, Gal­lup, in its ana­lys­is, does point out that Amer­ic­ans are some of the most civically en­gaged in the world, with high num­bers of people say­ing they donate money, vo­lun­teer, and have even helped a stranger.

Brian McGill contributed to this article.
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