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

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

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

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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.

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