New Englanders Donate an Embarrassingly Low Amount to Charity

See those lighter colors in the top right? That signifies the lack of charitable donations among New Englanders.
See those lighter colors in the top right? That signifies the lack of charitable donations among New Englanders. –The Chronicle of Philanthropy

The ALS ice bucket challenge may have its origins in Boston, but New Englanders are unusually stingy when it comes to donating to charity, according to a study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The analysis examined 2012 Internal Revenue Service tax returns of charitable deductions, and then organized that information by state and metropolitan area.

In almost every metric, New Englanders fared poorly in their donation rate. Nationwide, Americans donate about 3 percent of their income, but New Hampshire residents came in last place among the 50 states and D.C. by giving just 1.74 percent of their income. Maine’s 1.95 percent donation rate and Vermont’s 2 percent rate rounded out the bottom three of the least charitable states in the country.

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Massachusetts’ 2.19 percent donation rate was good enough for 46th among the 51 places surveyed. Hey, that’s not in the bottom five!

At the top end of the charitable states, Utah residents took the highest spot on the list with a 6.56 percent donation rate, almost four times the donation rate of New Hampshirirites. Utah’s high donation rate is likely due to the high percentage of Mormons living there, as the religion encourages adherents to give 10 percent of their income to the church.

Among the 50 biggest metropolitan areas, New England cities didn’t donate much. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy residents donated just 2.3 percent of their income, making it the 47th-most giving city. But take pride Bostonians: at least you’re more generous than Hartford, Conn. or the Providence area, otherwise known as the two least-giving metropolitan areas on the list.

Utah again comes on top Salt Lake City residents donate 5.4 percent of their income, followed by a number of Southern cities in Memphis, Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta.

New England’s low church attendance rate and culture of independence seems to be to blame here, Chronicle editor Stacy Palmer told the AP.

Solely examining IRS tax filings is a limited way to understand charitable giving, of course. Plenty of donations are not marked off as tax deductions. Volunteer hours, too, were not counted in this study but still constitute significant donation of time and effort.

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Not that this necessarily helps New England’s stats. Among the states with the highest volunteer rates, Utah comes out on top (again). Four midwestern states round out the top five of highest volunteer rates, with nary a New England state in the top 10.

It’s worth noting that this data all comes from IRS filings in 2012, otherwise known as BIBC (i.e. Before Ice Bucket Challenge.) That viral sensation began in honor of former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who is afflicted with ALS, and then spread across Facebook news feeds from there.

The data is broken down by zip code in a searchable map at The Chronicle’s website, so you can easily check out how little your neighbors donated.

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