The most charitable states in America

Published: Sunday, May 18 2014 10:24 p.m. MDT


Gallup has ranked each U.S. state by its charitable giving, listing Utah, Minnesota, and Hawaii as the most generous states.

A minimum of 600 citizens per state were asked whether they had personally donated money to charity, spent time volunteering with an organization, or both over the past month. All 50 states were polled between June and December of 2013.

In previous studies, Gallup has found a positive correlation between charitable giving and the well-being of a state ( well-being defined by Gallup primarily by economic and health related factors). This poll seems to confirm their previous findings, as all of the most charitable states are above the national average for well-being.

All information on our list comes from Gallup polls, with the exception of median state income, which was found in the most recent government census.

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Salt Lake City, UT

I've been taking note of these studies for about 20 years. Every last one shows a strong correlation between the religiosity of an area and various forms of "charity".

It led to the obvious question of why areas that are famous for their liberal politics (California, New York, etc.) were so consistently stingy, relatively speaking, when it comes actual acts of charity. Then, about 7-8 years ago, I was watching "The View" when the topic of conversation turned to the results of a study showing the same correspondence between charitable behavior and "conservative" (meaning, religious) values.

They all offered their opinions but it was the obsessively expressive and zealously liberal Joy Behar who provided the best insight into why liberals, in general, appear less charitable. Her comment was that she didn't do volunteer work or donate to charities because she relied on the government to provide "charity" and thus paying her taxes were her acts of charity, which weren't counted in the study.

Question answered! To someone of her mindset paying a mandatory tax, taken through coercion, is equivalent to someone freely choosing to give time/money....AND pay mandatory taxes.

No wonder she favors the compulsion of Obamacare.

DN Subscriber
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Thank you to everyone who makes charitable contributions, be they a few dollars, or hundreds of millions of dollars. And, just as important (or perhaps more so) are the people who volunteer their time for good deeds. All Utahns can be proud of this well deserved honor.

It is important to note that charitable contributions are made voluntarily, and usually used very efficiently with minimum overhead expenses or diversion of funds to pay layers of bureaucracy, and thus provide maximum benefit to recipients.

The same cannot be said for government "good deeds" which confiscate earnings under threat of law, waste much of the money paying hordes of bureaucrats with little interest in the outcomes, and fund programs directed by politicians who often are motivated more for political advantage than truly helping those in need.

Utahns can be proud to be a role model for all citizens, both givers, recipients and those who claim to care.

Big Bubba
Herriman, UT

If so many Latter-day Saints pay a tithe, fast offering, and volunteer in their communities, that should be a sign to others that Mormonism *is* as Christian religion. By their fruits ye shall know them.

Salt Lake City, UT

"To someone of her mindset paying a mandatory tax, taken through coercion"

It's not really coercion to the people who support that level of taxation.

Logan, UT

@ Schnee:

That is a humorous argument you are trying to make. Paying federal taxes is always a level of coercion. If you are forced to pay or do something, that is being coerced. And yes, we are indeed forced (coerced) to pay our taxes.

Paying them is NOT a voluntary option. It is a requirement mandated by law and subject to financial penalty and/or imprisonment if someone refuses. I can't think of a better example of coercion. You are simply trying to argue semantics rather than principle. And that still doesn't hold any water even at that level.

Orem, UT

It's also important to note that without tithes and contributions to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints, the state of Utah is last in charitable giving. The LDS church uses tithes primarily for their membership (churches, temples, membership support, missionary work) with a fraction going to global emergencies.

A Scientist
Provo, UT

The Mormon Church's "membership fee" really isn't a charitable contribution. And it is payed under threat of being excluded socially and from the Temple. My LDS wife pays a tithe from our household income, and is just consider it a very high membership fee, on par with my country club and association membership fees.

Eezy duzzit
Miami, FL


They only asked if the person had donated to charity, not how much. Some people can pay more than others. It's still good regardless of how much. Also, fast offerings go to anyone in the community who needs it regardless of whether they are LDS or not. Many also volunteer at other organizations to help them. Don't forget about what scouting programs do either. So I think a lot are still quite charitable.

Visalia, CA

Please provide your source on the extraction of contributions by Utah citizens to the LDS Church from the survey. Also, note that the Gallup Poll discovered positive correlation with giving and community wellbeing. Do you think that reduced giving to the LDS Church would reduce community wellbeing?

Further, my understanding is the survey asked how many people give to their communities in donations or service or both. They don't ask how much just how many. Utah ranked first in each category (giving money, giving time or giving both). So of course you won’t be able to extract your money variable from the survey because they never asked it.

Finally, this simply provides further support that LDS people put their money and time where their mouth is. I donate a tremendous amount of my time to my California community trying to make it a better place for all who live there. I spend 20-30 hours a week in the effort, plus I give well over 10% of my income in cash, services to others, vehicle time etc. But of course that's just one Mormon out here in California where we would love to have a few million more Mormons!

Salt Lake City, UT

Every time (and it happens quite often) the DN publicizes the charitable generosity of Utahns relative to other states, I am reminded of the passage from the sermon on the Mount:

"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth . . ." Matt. 6:1-3.

Houston, TX

The survey would generate more accurate results if it also included family support for elderly or disabled relatives. I bet Utah would come out high in that category, too.

Eezy duzzit
Miami, FL

@ A Scientist

"it is payed under threat of being excluded socially and from the Temple."

Well, I was never forced to be a member of the church. I am not forced to pay my tithing. Anyone can still go to church, Mormon or not. I pay my tithing because I believe it to be a commandment from God that will go toward building up the church to spread the great blessing of the gospel to other people who want to receive it. I love paying my tithing. Why would I join the church if I didn't believe in these things? If one believes it, then paying tithing should not be a problem.

Also, the times when I didn't pay my tithing, no one even knew about it. So social exclusion didn't even happen.

You're just looking for any excuse to hate The Church. This was a poor excuse.

Apo, AP

I agree with Samhill's sentiments.

There are essentially two ways to help the poor: the voluntary giving of time and money, and government assistance.

Let's say that we were going to given 1 million dollars to help the hungry in SLC this year.
1. Through voluntary giving of time and money and service, both those who give and those who receive are benefitted. Those who give become better, kinder, and develop concern for those around them. (Generally, this all occurs with lower overhead.)
2. Help given by taxing people and developing a government organization tends to not provide the givers (taxpayers) with these positive feelings and experiences. Additionally, the government is incapable of spending without significant overhead and significant obstacles to the ways they can spend the money. (Working for the government I see money wasted due to the challenges of bureaucracy every day.)

I only mention this because tax breaks for charitable giving through churches and other NGOs is often targeted by certain political factions who would like to do away with this and conduct all charity through the government.

I believe forced government giving was what Marx had in mind when he said "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

Salt Lake City, UT

Perhaps I should borrow someone else's statement as an example...

"I pay my tithing because I believe it to be a commandment from God that will go toward building up the church to spread the great blessing of the gospel to other people who want to receive it. I love paying my tithing." - Ezzy Duzzit

Arguably, tithing is forced on believers since it's required for the temple and the things the temple is needed for but to those who believe it's for a good cause, or whatever reason, they don't consider it force. Someone who was a believer who didn't want to pay might consider it more like force if they considered it a burdensome necessity to access temple sealings/etc.

Now, I certainly don't enjoy all my taxes (like say the portion that went to the Iraq war which I opposed from the start) so yeah I'd say those are forced, but if I support Medicare, or Social Security, or food stamps, I don't consider the taxes associated with those to really be forced in quite the same way as someone who opposes those programs does.

Cottonwood Heights, UT

"It's not really coercion to the people who support that level of taxation."

Except for when they go to great lengths to actually avoid paying the high taxes they allegedly support. A few examples:

1) Famoulsy liberal Irish band U2 decamping to Belgium (iirc) in order to avoid high Irish tax rates.

2) Famously liberal Steve Jobs/Apple refusing to repatriate their company's income in order to pay American tax rates (not to mention moving all of their manufacturing to China).

3) Al Gore, who one year in his financial disclosure report had given only about $300 to charity,

4) Microsoft claiming much of its profits from Puerto Rico, entitling it to lower tax rates from the federal government.

5) Utah's richest Democrats, Ian & Annette Cumming, moving to the no-income tax state of Wyoming, while still giving plenty of money to Utah Democrats and none to Wyoming Democrats.

6) Leftist George Soros sheltering much of his income in the Caribbean.

This list could be quite long...

Eezy duzzit
Miami, FL

@ Schnee

Coercion is persuading something through force. You're saying that if it is something you agree with, you would not need to be persuaded/forced to do it (even if you would be forced to do it anyway) and therefore, you are not coerced. Correct? I would agree with that.

Salt Lake City, UT

Does anybody else wonder how Utah can be first in the nation in charitable giving, and last in the nation in education spending? Perhaps we should make education a charitable endeavor. But even then, I suspect it would not raise our standing much. We just don't think providing for our children's intellectual development is as important as whatever our "voluntary" charitable dollars are spent on. Then there's health care for the poor, unemployment benefits, and a whole bunch of other things to benefit the less fortunate that our stingy legislature chronically underfunds. If we were truly charitable, we wouldn't even need those government programs. They would all be funded by voluntary donations. Somehow, I don't think Utahns are quite that generous.

Harrison Bergeron
Holladay , UT


A prominent liberal news outlet looked at all of the tax-cheating politicians over the last two decades and found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a margin of 18 to 7. One would think if people of Joy Behar's mindset really did believe in giving -- and taxes equal charity -- that these numbers would be just the opposite. They concluded that "Republicans and Tea Partiers tend to shout the loudest when it comes to tax reform, and they’re also the most law abiding—when it comes to paying their taxes, anyway."

Lehi, UT

EVEN IF it were only tithing (if we were to exclude the billions in fast offerings, canned goods, hours of service, donations to Salvation Army, Red Cross, shelters, Hospitals, second hand stores, homeless, etc etc etc), Still, tithing goes to education, humanitarian missions (including teaching, water projects (in over a 100 Nations now) hygiene, medical, etc etc etc), buildings (where kinds can learn about eternity, and even play ball etc) etc etc and according to the LDS Church article "Humanitarian Aid and Welfare Services Basics: How Donations and Resources Are Used" Tithing also goes to "Supporting the Church’s welfare programs and humanitarian aid, which serve people around the world — both members of the Church as well as those who are not members."

@ CURMUDGEON I think if the DN were speaking of their OWN donations (rather than reporting on a study) you might more effectively encourage others to pass judgement :) as is, perhaps you should read Matt. 7:1-3 : ) (&btw the "education" part of tithing etc. helps Utah spend less)

@ DRAGLINE- if that WERE true, how sad for non-Mormons in Utah, you are really missing out on giving please read "Why Giving Matters" Arthur Brooks is a Catholic speaking of Utah and giving.

Sacramento, CA

Many don't file itemized deductions on their tax forms, so no one knows what they give to charities, you know. Others don't make enough, or are on SSA or SSI, or have spotty income, and file no taxes. But I would not be surprised to learn that there are many, including many on the survey, who underestimated, or even refused to state an amount of charity giving, unless it was something they were actually seen doing, for the reason stated in the New Testament, that they wanted their work to be done, to the extent possible, in secret. I understand that Sen. Kennedy, among others, was one who often did things, or gave money to assist people in dire straits, having had them promise not to tell anyone--which they agreed to. Sometimes, I feel discouraged about the way folks seem to ignore their neighbors of late, but I still wish to think most folks are, at heart, most often good and kind, when given the chance. And I'd like to keep believing that.

Golden Eagle
Holladay, UT

A few responses to some of the comments above:

@Dragline: If you do not think that giving to one's church qualifies as charitable giving, then we would have to also discount donations by adherents of other faiths to their churches, which would also affect the results of the survey (particularly given that there is a high correlation between religiosity and charitable giving). So there's no way to know that Utah would be dead last in giving. But all of that is beside the point: why does giving to one's church not count as charitable giving?

@A Scientist: tithing is not a "membership fee." One does not have to pay tithing to enjoy the benefits of attending church service, participate in youth activities at the church, receive spiritual counseling and blessings from lay clergy and home & visiting teachers, and receive temporal service from the church. My ward's youth have provided countless hours of service to people within the neighborhood, both members and those who are not LDS, and not once did we ask if the recipients of our service pay their tithing.

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