Archive for Thursday, November 7, 2002

Generosity index’ shows Southerners are tops in charitable giving

November 7, 2002


— Southerners still take the prize when it comes to charitable giving, though a few Yankee states are making progress toward shedding their stingy reputations.

Relatively poor Bible Belt states, headed by Mississippi, retained their lead in the latest "Generosity Index," a survey measuring the disparity between what residents of each state earn and what they give.

Mississippi has finished first in five of the six annual surveys. In the latest, the Magnolia State once again has the greatest disparity between its ranking among the states in wealth 49th and its ranking in donations: 6th.

Following Mississippi are Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee and Louisiana, according to the Catalogue for Philanthropy, a Massachusetts group that created the study and encourages giving.

The group has consistently given the highest rankings to Southern and Midwestern states, where tithing giving a tenth of your income to church is relatively common. Northeastern states have generally ranked lowest.

"Mississippians recognize that caring for others is a way of caring for the community at large, and the depth of that caring is amazing," said Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. "The Generosity Index is further evidence that our caring begins in the heart and moves to the wallet."

The survey doesn't reflect the recent economic downturn because it relied on IRS tax returns from 2000, the most recent year available.

New Hampshire, which is the sixth wealthiest state per capita but ranked only 45th in charitable contributions, came in dead last, one spot behind Rhode Island. New Jersey and Wisconsin were 48th and 47th, respectively.

Still, there were signs that the prosperity of the 1990s made some New England residents more generous. Connecticut rose 10 spots from 44th to 34th.

Massachusetts, which has finished last in some previous surveys, rose from 48th to 44th. Charitable giving in the state over the late 1990s rose considerably faster than income, and more than doubled to $3.97 billion.

"The economy was good everywhere, but Massachusetts' growth in giving outstrips by far every other state," said George McCully, the group's coordinator trustee.

The survey compares each state's average adjusted gross income with its average itemized charitable deduction.

But because those numbers don't quite line up, the index compares the states' relative rankings in those categories. Only about one in four taxpayers itemize, although those taxpayers account for 80 percent of charitable giving.

Kansas ranked 21st in the index, just behind Missouri at 20th but ahead of 22nd-ranked Montana.

The authors acknowledge the survey, compiled by the National Center for Charitable Statistics, is imperfect. It doesn't account for volunteering and economists dislike it.

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