(NEW YORK) — Which states are more generous about giving money to charities? Red or blue states? A report by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, “How America Gives,” uses the most recent available IRS data from 2008 to find out.
The answer, according to the report, is that people in Republican-leaning states give somewhat more, mostly because of religious ties. The Chronicle studied individual tax returns and studied demographic characteristics such as religion and political affiliation. The report found that states that were in favor of the 2008 presidential candidate John McCain gave higher percentages of discretionary income toward charities.
The state of Utah, where a majority of residents are Mormon and encouraged to give 10 percent of their income to the church, had the highest percentage — 10.6 percent. Residents in Utah had an estimated median discretionary income of $49,551.
The state of Utah shows how important religion is to giving, said Peter Panepento, the Chronicle of Philanthropy‘s assistant managing editor. In Utah, the estimated median contribution was $5,255, as reported to the IRS on itemized tax returns.
The District of Columbia followed Utah, with people there giving an average of 7.7 percent of their salaries to charity. The district, the only ranking in the top five that swung Democrat in the last presidential election, has an estimated median discretionary income of $39,045.
After religion, diversity, especially in an urban area such as the District of Columbia, is a major factor affecting philanthropy. In other words, where and with whom someone lives affects his or her giving habits, Panepento said.
People who made over $200,000 a year and lived in wealthier ZIP codes gave in lower numbers than those in more economically diverse ZIP codes, the Chronicle found.
Mississippi, a Bible-belt state, ranked third in philanthropic giving, another example of the relationship between giving and religion. The state had an estimated median contribution of $3,998 with a giving percentage of 7.2 percent of income. The estimated median discretionary income was $55,264.
The state of Alabama ranked fourth with a giving percentage of 7.1 percent and an estimated median giving contribution of $4,007. The estimated median income for residents is $56,493.
Also in the Bible belt, Alabama has strong religious ties that encourage people to give more of their income to the church and charitable causes.
The state of Tennessee ranked fifth, with a giving rate of 6.6 percent and a median contribution of $3,807. The median discretionary income is $58,097.
A number of religious denominations are headquartered in Tennessee, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Heidi Hatch, KUTV
Jeff Wuorio, Deseret News