America’s Most (and Least) Generous States

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5. South Carolina
> Pct. of income donated: 6.4% (tied-fifth)
> Total charitable contributions: $2 billion (25th highest)
> Median contribution: $3,429 (6th highest)
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 2.9% (11th lowest)
> Pct. families in poverty: 13.8% (8th highest)

South Carolina is a state buffeted by economic problems. The state’s 9.6% unemployment rate is tied for fifth highest in the U.S. and well above the national rate of 8.3%. The state also has among the highest percentage of residents on food stamps (14.5%) and families living below the poverty line (13.8%). Nevertheless, 25.8% of South Carolina residents filed tax returns with charitable contributions, collectively giving 6.4% of their discretionary income. Like many generous states, South Carolina is deeply religious, with 56% of the population going to church, synagogue or mosque at least once a week, the fourth highest proportion in the U.S.

Also Read: America’s Most (and Least) Livable States

4. Tennessee
> Pct. of income donated: 6.6%
> Total charitable contributions: $2.7 billion (16th highest)
> Median contribution: $3,807 (4th highest)
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 3.4% (22nd lowest)
> Pct. families in poverty: 13.4% (10th highest)

Unlike states such as South Carolina and Georgia, where more than a quarter of the people filed for charitable contribution deductions, less than one in five of Tennesseans filed taxes with a contribution. Nevertheless, those who did donate gave a median contribution of $3,807, the fourth highest of all states. Low taxes and low cost of living may be encouraging some Tennesseans to donate. The 7.6% state and local tax burden is the fourth-lowest in the country. Meanwhile, the state also has the lowest overall cost of living and the lowest cost of living for housing.

3. Alabama
> Pct. of income donated: 7.1%
> Total charitable contributions: $2.3 billion (21st highest)
> Median contribution: $4,007 (2nd highest)
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 2.9% (12th lowest)
> Pct. families in poverty: 14.7% (3rd highest)

Alabama is a deeply religious state, with 58% of the population going to church, synagogue or mosque at least once a week, which is highly indicative of a giving culture. A quarter of the people in the state filed tax returns with charitable contributions, and the median contribution was $4,007 — the only state except for Utah with a median contribution above $4,000. But since the Chronicle of Philanthropy survey only measured donations for households who make more than $50,000, it may have missed many people in Alabama who don’t make nearly enough to qualify for this measurement. Most notably, 14.7% of families live below the poverty line, the third highest rate among all states.

2. Mississippi
> Pct. of income donated: 7.2%
> Total charitable contributions: $1.1 billion (19th lowest)
> Median contribution: $3,998 (3rd highest)
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 2.1% (2nd lowest)
> Pct. families in poverty: 17.8% (the highest)

Mississippi has the lowest median income in the country at $36,851 and highest percentage of families living below the poverty line at 17.8%. But that doesn’t keep the residents from being generous with what they do have. Religion likely influences how residents donate. Mississippians are avid church-goers — 63% of residents went to church, synagogue or mosque once a week, the highest percentage in the country.

1. Utah
> Pct. of income donated: 10.6%
> Total charitable contributions: $2.4 billion (20th highest)
> Median contribution: $5,225 (the highest)
> Pct. households $200,000+ income: 3.5% (24th lowest)
> Pct. families in poverty: 9.7% (24th lowest)

Utah isn’t by any means the richest state in the U.S. The median income of $54,744 is right around the national median of $50,046. Nevertheless, Utahns donated 10.6% of their discretionary income to charity — the highest rate of any state by sizable 3.4 percentage points. Also, more than a third (33.4%) of the population claimed a charitable contribution on their taxes. High amounts of charitable giving is a product of the fact that a majority of Utahns are Mormon – more than 62% of Utah’s population is affiliated with the Mormon Church, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Funded by tithing, the church asks members to give 10% of their income “to move forward the work of the church.”