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New Studies Highlight Regional Differences in U.S. Giving Patterns

(Dec. 5, 2005) Two new studies shed fresh light on geographic giving patterns in the United States and reveal that some areas are much more generous than had previously been thought.

The Giving USA Foundation has released Analysis of Regional Variations in Charitable Giving, which provides an in-depth look at giving in nine regions within the United States. The study uses a variety of data, including participation rates, average total amount per household and average amounts contributed to religious and secular causes.

The Northeast is the only region in the United States that gives more money to secular causes than to religious causes. The Northeast shows a high rate of participation, especially for secular causes, while slightly lower percentage of average income donated (1.3 percent compared to 2.0 percent nationally, when comparing all households).

In contrast, the Mountain region (ranging from Arizona to Idaho) features higher average gift amounts for religious causes, with lower amounts for secular causes. The region has a very high overall average gift amount to all causes, but lower giving as a percentage of income for donor households.

'Americans are not one size fits all,' said Henry 'Hank' Goldstein, chairman of Giving USA Foundation, in a press release about the study. 'There are marked differences that must be understood before assigning terms such as 'generous' or 'stingy' to residents of a particular state or region.'

The report is available for $35 on the Giving USA Foundation website, or by calling (847) 375-4709.

Debunking the Generosity Index

Shattering myths about the stinginess of a certain state was the purpose of a second study released by the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy.

Geography and Generosity: Boston and Beyond, commissioned by the Boston Foundation, seeks to refute the findings of the Generosity Index, which ranks the 50 states by giving and generosity. Massachusetts has been ranked at the bottom of the index for several years, and the Boston Foundation felt this ranking had stereotyped the state as 'stingy.'

The report argues that the Generosity Index is flawed because it does not correctly take into account the cost of living in various states, total income and total charitable contributions. Researchers found that even if Massachusetts residents had given 1,000 times the amount of money they actually gave in 2004, and giving to charity in other states held constant, the state still would not have ranked any higher than 23rd on the Generosity Index.

The new study develops a new way to determine generosity by measuring the share of total charitable contributions donated by the residents of each state and comparing it to the share of income earned by the residents of the same state. By including differences in income, taxes and other cost-of-living factors, the study alleges to create a fairer view of each state's generosity.

Using the new generosity methodology, Massachusetts ranks sixth using 2000 data and 11th using 2002 data. For 2002, Utah was ranked as the most generous state, with New York and Maryland tied for third.

The 48-page report is available free of charge in PDF format on the Boston College Center website.

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