Religion contributes to Utah being most charitable state in country, poll finds

By JJ Feinauer, Deseret News

Published: Tue, June 18, 2013, 12:55 a.m. MDT

 A study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy shows a connection between religiosity and charitable giving.

A study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy shows a connection between religiosity and charitable giving.

(Shutterstock )

A new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy places Utah as the most charitable state in the country.

“The Mormon tradition of tithing is a primary reason residents of this state well outpace those in every other place in America,” the bi-weekly newspaper wrote on its website.

As the study shows, there is a strong connection between religion and charitable donations.

“Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not,” the study concludes.

In fact, the two most generous states, according to the findings, have high concentrations of people who identify themselves as religious. While Utah is well-known for its Latter-day Saint population — roughly 58 percent identify with the faith — the state that comes in second, Mississippi, was reported by Gallup in March to be the most religious state in America.

Of all the states in the top ten, Utah and Idaho are the only two not located in the Bible Belt.

When religious donations are discounted, however, the results change dramatically. For example, while New York currently sits at number 17, it would jump to the No. 2 slot if only secular donations were considered.

Another important finding in the study is a reconfirmation that those with the most tend to give the least.

“Middle-class Amer­i­cans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities than the rich,” the study finds. “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.”

As The Atlantic pointed out in April, the two trends are likely connected.

“Wealth affects not only how much money is given but to whom it is given,” Ken Stern wrote in his article “Why the rich don’t give to charity.”

“The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the wealthy prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums.”

See the list of charitable donations per state.

JJ Feinauer is a graduate of Southern Virginia University and an intern for the Moneywise page on DeseretNews.com. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @johnorjj.

1. RanchHand
Huntsville, UT,
June 18, 2013

Charity. Is giving your money to your church truly charity? Not in my opinion. True charity is giving your money to those in need, not to multi-billion dollar corporations pretending to speak for some higher being.

2. Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
June 18, 2013

Charity given for a reward is not charity.

3. Tyler D
Meridian, ID,
June 18, 2013

“Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not,”

Until these studies start to tease out tithing from true charity, statements like this one should be viewed with suspicion and incredulity.

The vast majority of funds spent by churches can best be categorized as either entertainment or social club-type costs. Believers attend church for the same reasons other people join the Rotary club or attend concerts – to feel uplifted and a sense of community. Give these organizations and events the same tax-free status churches receive, and then call them charities, and watch the data skew sharply.

I guess if the objective is a puff piece meant to support faith, then job well done. But there’s a big difference though between humble faith and self-righteous sanctimony and as ”factual” as it purports to be, the sentence above sounds more smug than charitable.

4. Ender
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 18, 2013

@RanchHand (and others)
Have you been to the LDS Humanitarian Service Center? Have you seen the wonderful operation that is Catholic Community Services? Have you volunteered at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake City?

Without organizations such as these (who receive support from CHURCHES), those in need would not be receiving nearly as much as they now do! It is our religious organizations that continue to assist those most in need, whether through services or by reminding believers to love our neighbors and care for our brothers and sisters.

5. JJ Feinauer
Salt Lake CIty , UT,
June 18, 2013

@Tyler D, you have an interesting point. Which is why the article points out what would change if religious donations were excluded in the 7th paragraph.