New York and California may be the richest states, but when it comes to charity, they’re not even among the top 25.
An analysis from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which uses data on tax returns, found that Utah was the most charitable state in 2012, as measured by giving as a percentage of adjusted gross income. Utah’s giving percentage was 6.56 percent—more than twice the rate for New York and California. That means that for every $1,000 Utah residents earned, they gave $65.60 to charity.
Mississippi ranked second, at 4.99 percent, followed by Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. The least charitable state was New Hampshire, with 1.74 percent. Maine and Vermont were close behind, with 1.95 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
New York ranked 28th, with 2.86 percent, while California ranked 40th.
Granted, the ranking for many of the top states is as much a function of low incomes as it is large giving. On a pure dollar basis, the states with more rich people—California, New York and Florida—most likely contribute far more.
Yet the top giving states tend to share certain traits. They are Sun Belt states. They are states with stronger religious participation. And they all voted Republican in the 2012 election.
Religion seems to be the biggest factor in the rankings. A Gallup poll in February found that Mississippi and Utah are the two most religious states, followed by Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina. Religion is also the largest recipient of America’s charitable dollars, totaling $105 billion in 2013, or slightly less than a third of all giving in the U.S.
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When it comes to politics, the most charitable states are also solidly red. Of the top 20 states for giving, 18 voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. Florida (at 17) and Washington, D.C., (at 20) were the only locations that voted Democratic that were in the top 20.
Of the 20 least charitable states, all but three were blue states in 2012.
When it comes to cities, Salt Lake City ranked first with a rate of 5.4 percent. Memphis, Tennessee, ranked second, with 5.1 percent, followed by Birmingham, Alabama, Atlanta and Nashville, Tennessee.
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