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Who gives to charity? (spin-off of "Missionary work short-sighted?)

Here's a very telling article from 20/20's John Stossel. The claims I made in the other question are worth taking seriously, not just dismissing out of hand.

Who gives to charity? - John Stossel -

Americans are pretty generous. Three-quarters of American families give to charity -- and those who do, give an average of $1,800. Of course that means one-quarter of us don't give at all. What distinguishes those who give from those who don't? It turns out there are many myths about that.

To test them, ABC's "20/20" went to Sioux Falls, S.D., and San Francisco. We asked the Salvation Army to set up buckets at their busiest locations in both cities. Which bucket would get more money? I'll get to that in a minute.

San Francisco and Sioux Falls are different in some important ways. Sioux Falls is small and rural, and more than half the people go to church every week.

San Francisco is a much bigger and richer city, and relatively few people attend church. It is also known as a very liberal place, and since liberals are said to "care more" about the poor, you might assume people in San Francisco would give a lot.

But the idea that liberals give more is a myth. Of the top 25 states where people give an above-average percentage of their income, all but one (Maryland) were red -- conservative -- states in the last presidential election.

"When you look at the data," says Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks, "it turns out the conservatives give about 30 percent more. And incidentally, conservative-headed families make slightly less money."

Researching his book, "Who Really Cares", Brooks found that the conservative/liberal difference goes beyond money:

"The people who give one thing tend to be the people who give everything in America. You find that people who believe it's the government's job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away."

Conservatives are even 18 percent more likely to donate blood.

The second myth is that people with the most money are the most generous. But while the rich give more in total dollars, low-income people give almost 30 percent more as a share of their income.

Says Brooks: "The most charitable people in America today are the working poor."

We saw that in Sioux Falls, S.D. The workers at the meat packing plant make about $35,000, yet the Sioux Falls United Way says it gets more contributions of over $500 from employees there than anywhere else.

Note that Brooks said the "working" poor. The nonworking poor -- people on welfare -- are very different, even though they have the same income. The nonworking poor don't give much at all.

What about the middle class? Well, while middle-income Americans are generous compared to people in other countries, when compared to both the rich and working poor in America, Brooks says, "They give less."

When asked why, many say, "I don't have enough money to spare." But it's telling that the working poor manage to give.

And the rich? What about America's 400 billionaires? I'll report on them in next week's column.

Finally, Brooks says one thing stands out as the biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable: "their religious participation." Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money -- four times as much.

But doesn't that giving just stay within the religion?

"No," says Brooks, "Religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly nonreligious charities. Religious people give more blood; religious people give more to homeless people on the street."

And what happened in our little test? Well, even though people in Sioux Falls make, on average, half as much money as people in San Francisco, and even though the San Francisco location was much busier -- three times as many people were within reach of the bucket -- by the end of the second day, the Sioux Falls bucket held twice as much money.

Another myth bites the dust.

Sorry, not sure how to make the link work. Open it in Google if you like.


Asked by Ballad at 3:26 AM on Feb. 23, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 45 (193,996 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (65)
  • There is a difference between religion telling you to do something and you actually taking it to heart and making it part of your own make up. No different that NP encouraging her son to share his cookies with someone who doesn't have any.

    The reactions are kind of funny. I do have to agree using the Salvation Army bucket as a test might not be the best indicator since some will not donate to SA right now in light of their rules. So the test/survey might be scewed by that.

    Over all this is not new information.

    Answer by Dardenella at 9:09 AM on Feb. 23, 2013

  • Oh, I forgot one - all religious people are Christians. There are no religious Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Wiccans, Heathens, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Native Americans, Hellenists, Voodoo, Sikh, or anyone else in America, only Christians and atheists, and none of them give to charity, only the Christians.

    Such compelling evidence.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 4:40 AM on Feb. 23, 2013

  • So all conservatives are Christians, all liberals are not Christians, no conservatives ever lie about donating to charity to make themselves look good, and no liberals ever make anonymous donations. Glad we've cleared that up.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 4:32 AM on Feb. 23, 2013

  • Using a Salvation Army (discriminatory religious organization) bucket to illustrate this assertion is absurd.

    Answer by SWasson at 7:33 AM on Feb. 23, 2013

  • You know, this is not a study, it's an experiment. If you don't know the difference between the two, I'd suggest a bit of research. As such, the "results' are worthless, in my opinion. The purpose of a true study is to do your best to eliminate any suggestion of bias, to use an acceptable number of participants, etc.

    Answer by Mrs_Prissy at 11:12 AM on Feb. 23, 2013

  • I don't donate to Salvation Army & never will. But I donate to brain tumor research, ronald McDonald house ( we buy donations & take them there) , and every week I try to do a random act of kindness for a stranger. I also have helped out fellow cafemoms. But your " good Christian" organizations will never see a red cent from me.

    Answer by funlovinlady at 9:09 AM on Feb. 23, 2013

  • But the fact is still well documented

    No, it's not. It's been explained pretty patiently here why it's not. What's well documented is people like to make a lot of assumptions and to lie about statistics to make them sound like they say things they don't.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 3:13 PM on Feb. 23, 2013

  • "But the fact is still well documented "

    Bigfoot is well documented. Atlantis is well documented. I don't think "well documented" means what you think it means

    Answer by Mrs_Prissy at 3:45 PM on Feb. 23, 2013

  • Does it occur naturally for you to have your head implanted that firmly in sand or do use special tools to help you out.
    First of all Salvation Army is a very biased charity (with mismanaged funds) that many people refuse to donate to on sheer principle. There are THOUSANDS of other more reliable charitable organizations to donate to.
    Secondly townhall is a biased conservative web site that passes itself off as a "news source"
    Trying to use either of these as "proof" is ignorant and just plain stupid.

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 10:14 AM on Feb. 23, 2013

  • This "study" is utter bullshit.

    That aside, I ask you know how I spend my free time? DO you know how many times I drop off items to the local goodwill? Do you know how much money I raise every single year for the MS Walk that I do? Do you know how many times I've given money to the person begging on the street corner? Do you know how many horses lives I've saved because "someone" decided they weren't worthy of love, nutrition, companionship anymore? Gee, do you think any of those owners were, GASP, conservative?? Ya know what? I don't give a shit. I care about helping the horses. Curing MS, helping the person on the corner.

    I don't take the time to contemplate who believes in what and whether they are "worthy" of my help. I just do it. And I do it because my heart tells me too. Not because some god told me too, or some church made it easy for me to do it. It's so easy to drop off a can of food to the food pantry..

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 2:58 PM on Feb. 23, 2013