The Most Generous States: More Than Just Religion and Taxation

Planning & Saving
on January 27, 2013

An interesting infographic recently released by personal financial website revealed that when it comes to charitable giving, Utah residents are the most generous and Maine taxpayers the least. The data visualized by was compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy in August of 2012, but the tax records used in the study date back to 2008.

What makes Utah such a generous state is tithing, a religious practice that is closely observed and practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The doctrine of tithe involves a regular 10 percent monetary contribution to a church, and it dates back to the biblical days of Abraham. Since Utah has the greatest concentration of Mormons in the United States, it is not surprising that in 2008 the median charitable giving rate in the Beehive State was 10.6 percent –the highest in the Union.

Utah’s median charitable contribution was calculated at $5,255 in 2008. Idaho, another state with a high concentration of Mormons, ranked number 10 on the list. Various Bible Belt states followed Utah on the list: Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana respectively ranked second through ninth. Tithing is also practiced by many of the evangelical and Protestant denomination in those states.

There is also the issue of state taxation to consider when it comes to charitable giving. Some of the states at the bottom of the visualization happen to be subject to pretty high tax rates. Maine, for example, has a 10 percent tax rate. Three other states that appeared to be parsimonious in terms of charitable giving in the infographic also happen to have high tax rates: Rhode Island with 10.2 percent, Connecticut with 11.1, and Vermont with 10.3.

Labor unions also seem to play a part in the charitable giving spectrum. The ten most generous states happen to be right-to-work states where collective bargaining is not welcome. This makes sense since unionized workers are expected to monetarily contribute to their unions, thereby leaving fewer funds available to donate to charity. Another interesting fact may be attributed to geography and culture since all six states that make up the New England region are at the bottom of the list, while eight out of the top ten are Southern states.

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