Who’s More Generous, Liberals or Conservatives?
Life + Money

Who’s More Generous, Liberals or Conservatives?

Conservatives give more money to charity than liberals. That's the conventional wisdom, anyway, and at least one new study backs that thinking up.

"How America Gives," published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, uses IRS data to determine giving patterns across the country, broken out by income ranges across ZIP codes, counties, and states. Researchers looked at adjusted gross income to determine how much people gave, and the study tracked about 80 percent of all money donated to charity by taxpaying Americans in 2012, the latest year for which IRS data was available.

Related: The Ten Least Generous States in the U.S.

While most coverage of the report has focused on the finding that top-earners have been giving a smaller share of their income to charity than poorer Americans, The Chronicle study also highlights "giving patterns," broken out by state and compared against how each state voted in the 2012 presidential election, i.e., whether it went for Romney or Obama.

Overall, the states in which people gave the highest percentage of their adjusted gross incomes were also states that voted for Romney, while states in which people gave the lowest percentage of their adjusted gross income went for Obama. The top 17 states for rate of giving all went for Romney.

Related: The 10 Most Generous States in the U.S.

In 2006 Arthur C. Brooks, now president of the American Enterprise Institute, authored the book Who Really Cares, which Los Angeles Times liberal columnist Michael Hiltzik has cited as "the source of the notion that conservatives are more generous." Hiltzik disputes this "received wisdom," citing a 2013 paper by MIT political scientists Michele F. Margolis and Michael W. Sances that found that, for individuals, the "relationship between conservatism and giving vanishes after adjusting for income and religiosity." In other words, conservatives are more likely to be wealthy and more likely to give to their churches than liberals.

Margolis and Sances also argue that, "At the state level, we find no evidence of a relationship between charitable giving and Republican presidential voteshare." Consider this new Chronicle study, then, another interesting rhetorical salvo in the ongoing debate about which side of the American political spectrum is more generous hearted, but not the final one.

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