Even as the income gap widens, the wealthiest Americans are giving a smaller share of their income to charity, while poor and middle-income people are donating a larger share, according to an extensive analysis of IRS data conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The Chronicle, a leading source of news coverage of the nonprofit world, said in a report being released Monday that Americans who earned $200,000 or more reduced the share of their income they gave to charity by 4.6 percent from 2006 to 2012. Those earning less than $100,000 donated 4.5 percent more of their income, the report said.
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The Chronicle's analysis was based on tax returns filed by Americans who itemize their deductions, including their charitable gifts. Rankings were compiled for states and metropolitan areas based on the ratio of contributions to adjusted gross income.
According to the report, changes in giving patterns were most pronounced in major cities, where the percentage of income that residents donated dropped markedly between 2006 and 2012. In Philadelphia and Buffalo, New York, the share of income given to charity fell by more than 10 percent; there was a 9 percent drop in Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington, D.C.
Tami Phillips of the Midnight Mission, a Los Angeles charity serving homeless people, credited gifts from low- and moderate-income people, for helping sustain its programs during the recession.
"It hits closer to home," said Phillips. "Any day, they too could become homeless."
The Chronicle's editor, Stacy Palmer, noted that wealthy donors, overall, were more oriented toward support of the arts and higher education than lower-income donors, and less oriented toward support of social-service charities.
At the state level, residents of Utah were the nation's most generous, donating $65.60 to charity for every $1,000 they earned. One factor is Utah's large presence of Mormons, whose church practices call for them to give at least 10 percent of their income to charity.
Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee — also with high proportions of loyal churchgoers — were next in the rankings.
At the bottom of the list was New Hampshire, where residents gave $17.40 for every $1,000 they earned. Its neighbors, Maine and Vermont, were the next lowest.
Palmer suggested that the low rankings for northern New England stemmed in part from low rates of church attendance, but also from residents' "independent streak" and a tradition of self-reliance.
Nevada was the state with the fastest-growing rate of donations as a share of income, jumping nearly 13 percent from 2006 to 2012. Its major metropolis, Las Vegas, was the fastest-growing city in terms of generosity, rising 21 places since 2006 in a ranking of the country's 50 largest urban areas.
North Dakota experienced the biggest decline in giving. Residents reduced the share of income they donated by nearly 16 percent, contributing $24 for every $1,000 earned on average. The Chronicle said that dip could have serious implications, given the increasing demand for social services as newcomers stream in to take advantage of the state's oil boom.
Among the 50 largest cities, Salt Lake City had the most generous residents, giving away 5.4 percent of their incomes. It was followed by Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, and Nashville, Tennessee.
In sixth place was Jacksonville, Florida — which trailed only Las Vegas for the biggest growth rate in giving between 2006 and 2012.
The report detailed how Jacksonville donors had rallied behind a campaign to improve the region's public schools via a Quality Education for All fund launched in 2005 with a goal of raising $50 million. The effort has borne fruit, with Duval County's graduation rate rising from 53.5 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2013, and a new campaign is underway focusing on 37 of the district's historically lowest-performing schools.
The cities where residents gave the smallest share of their income to charity were Hartford, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island, and San Jose, California.
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