Study Finds Shifts in Charitable Giving After Recession
Between 2006 and 2012, the wealthiest Americans became less generous with charitable donations, as a share of their total income, while lower- and middle-income Americans reached farther into their pockets as they witnessed the need for charity in their communities, a study says.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in a study released Monday, examined $180 billion in donations to charity in 2012 by taxpayers who itemized their deductions and found that the share of income donated to charity by Americans who earned $200,000 or more decreased by 4.6 percent since 2006. Those earning less than $100,000 gave 4.5 percent more of their income to charity.
“The wealthiest aren’t being persuaded to up their share of giving in the same kind of way the poor are,” said Stacy Palmer, the editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
She added, “It makes it clear that the competition for dollars is really intense.”
But the total amount donated by the wealthy grew by $4.6 billion, accounting for inflation, to $77.5 billion between 2006 and 2012, she said.
“In some ways, because the ranks of the wealthy are growing, that means that more people are giving,” Ms. Palmer said.
That $77.5 billion was 2.8 percent of the income of Americans who made $200,000 or more that year. Americans who earned between $50,000 and $75,000 donated 3.5 percent of their income to charity.
Rates of giving fell in many of the biggest cities, but there were some marked increases. In Las Vegas, the share of income donated grew by 14.9 percent, which the study’s authors attributed in part to a rise in smaller donations from people concerned about the economic downturn there.
Charity officials told the study’s authors that giving rates among lower-income donors appeared to increase elsewhere for the same reason.
“They really felt close to the kinds of problems charities were trying to deal with,” Ms. Palmer said. “They were feeling like, ‘That could be me.’ ”
In Jacksonville, Fla., the share of income donated to charity increased by 8.7 percent, amid a sustained effort to improve the area’s public schools, which suggests that concentrated campaigns can increase charity even during times of economic hardship.
“People felt so strongly about the campaign for the schools that people gave as much as they could at different income levels,” Ms. Palmer said.
The share of income donated fell by more than 10 percent in Philadelphia and in Buffalo, but the drop did not necessarily spell disaster for all charities in those cities. Philabundance, a hunger relief organization in Philadelphia, said it had experienced an increase in giving in recent years. Lindsay Hughes, a public relations manager for the agency, said hunger had been a prominent topic in the news over the last few years because of such issues as a decline in government food assistance.
Religion appeared to play a role in promoting higher giving rates. Residents of Utah, where the Mormon Church encourages members to give significantly to charity, gave the highest share of their income to charity, 6.6 percent. Nine of the 10 cities where the giving rate was highest are in the so-called Bible Belt. Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire had the lowest rates.