Generous and not-so-generous cities

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the most generous cities in terms of giving to charity are:

The least generous cities are:

Anything stand out?

Here are a few things worth noting:

1)The most generous cities are heavily Mormon.

2)When you visit the article, you will see that people in Provo and Logan give more than 13 percent of their discretionary income, an enormous amount compared even to the 10th most generous city, Jackson, Mississippi, which gives 8.1 percent. People in the least generous city, Manchest-Nashua, NH, give only 2.4 percent.

3)Other than heavily Mormon cities, the most generous cities are in the south and the least generous in the northeast. There are some strange outliers like Laredo, TX (a very poor border town).

4)Many of the least generous cities are liberal politically, and indeed a very large percentage are liberal college cities. It is worth pointing out that some of the most generous cities, like Provo and Logan, are also more conservative cities with colleges.

Any other trends you notice?

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

67 thoughts on “Generous and not-so-generous cities

  1. The biggest trend is that religious people are more generous. Of course, much of that generosity goes towards paying their pastors and for their church buildings–in other words, they benefit directly from much of that generosity.

    Other studies have shown that religious liberals are far more generous than non-religious conservatives. Red states are more generous because they tend to be more religious, not because they’re more conservative.

    Recent studies have also shown that percentage wise, some of the least generous people are wealthy people who surround themselves with other wealthy people. Wealthy people who live in a more diverse (money wise) community tend to be more generous.

  2. I will point out that I met a liberal Lutheran pastor who is independently wealthy who said he gave more than 35 percent of his gross to charity. The religious/non-religious divide is significant.

  3. The top six are also “temple cities”! I suspect that may have something to do with it too.

  4. In my experience, people who are heavily taxed are more likely to think they “gave at the office” and are less likely to be personally generous. If you study charity in Europe, to give an example, the most heavily taxed countries are much less likely to give to charity than ones with lower taxes. There is also a religious element, ie, the most secular countries (like France) are generally the least generous.

  5. What are you counting as college towns? Madison and Boston, sure. Providence has Brown and Hartford has UConn, but both of those are large industrial cities. Lewiston, Springfield, and Pittsfield have prestigious but small liberal arts colleges. But overall the 25 lowest ranking cities are strikingly industrial and blue-collar.

    Scranton, Michigan City, Janesville, and Worcester in the bottom 25 and Tuscaloosa, Chattanooga, and Montgomery in the top 25 suggest there might also be a story in here about the migration of manufacturing. Way to go Mormon Corridor, though – top 6 and far higher donations than the rest of the intermountain west.

  6. This is an apples and oranges comparison. Most of it is tithing, is that charity? Most tithing money is used to build buildings and run the church only a small percentage is used for charity.

  7. I spent a minute looking for a data or methodology section on the CoP website, and I didn’t find one. My guess, given the geographic level of detail, is that the data originate with the IRS or Census and uses their definitions. “Charity” then would be very broadly defined; donations to orchestras, churches, food banks would all be summed together. That doesn’t disqualify this data as interesting. These tables of course aren’t designed to show which cities have the best people or who does the most for the poor; they show where donors live and how much the voluntarily give.

  8. A church is a charitable enterprise. It is not like we say you have to pay a fixed amount or we won’t let you in the doors. In addition, a strong ward contributes far more in tithing than is required for its own upkeep, including its share of the cost of the building it meets in. A large part of that is exported to areas that aren’t nearly so self sufficient.

  9. Seems when you get to be as polular as SLC and Boston, you’re no longer part of a State/Commonwealth.

    Seriously, though, I wonder what the percentages would look like based on actual incomes, not just discretionary incomes, whatever they take discretionary to mean. Might be an interesting graph.

  10. One also wonders if the many southern communities that are high on the list may be due in part to strong evangelical populations such as the Southern Baptist Convention. Many of those communities would have large black populations so this may speak well of their generosity as well.

  11. Brian-A, to answer your question on “college towns,” I guess not all of the least generous towns are “college towns,” per se, and the definition of a college town is somewhat fluid. When I think of New Haven, which is not very generous, I definitely think: “college town.” Same with Madison, WI and Boulder, which is not very generous. Boston has lots of colleges but is much more than a college town, as is Providence and Burlington. Is Lewistown, Me a college town? Bates College makes it so, but it is also more than a college town. Hartford and Springfield are definitely known as college towns. To quote from Wikipedia: “The Hartford-Springfield region is known as the Knowledge Corridor because it hosts over 160,000 university students and over 32 universities and liberal arts colleges – the second-highest concentration of higher-learning institutions in the United States.[15] The City of Springfield itself is home to Springfield College; Western New England University; American International College; the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s School of Urban Design; and Springfield Technical Community College, among other higher educational institutions.”

  12. I agree about the “gave at the office” attitude. I think liberals in general tend to think of charitable services like providing for the poor and those with special needs, as a function of government. Therefore if they have paid their taxes they feel they have done their part.

    Clearly the prevalence of heavily Mormon cities in the list is explained by the tithing requirement.

  13. In my experience, people who are heavily taxed are more likely to think they “gave at the office” and are less likely to be personally generous. If you study charity in Europe, to give an example, the most heavily taxed countries are much less likely to give to charity than ones with lower taxes. There is also a religious element, ie, the most secular countries (like France) are generally the least generous.

    Given that I live in the Hartford area, I think I can reasonably speak to why the people in my neck of the woods are not more generous.

    I think your comment about taxation and charitable giving is spot on. Connecticut has some of the highest taxes in the nation. Of course, this is just my opinion, and not backed by any fact or other data points.

  14. If tithing is the bulk of the Mormon charity, and I agree that it probably is in these cases, it speaks well of the percentages of tithe payers in those communities. I think tithing is also sometimes used in what are designated as “humanitarian” projects that the world would be more inclined to consider charity.

  15. Sorry for intruding here again, but I keep thinking about this. 18 of the top 25 are in the south, all 25 are in the south or west, nothing from the midwest northwest, northeast, north Atlantic, or south west. I’m particularly interested in why you think the south is so heavily represented?

  16. Of course, if you look at the most heavily taxed countries in Europe, you will also find that the need for charity is less than in the United States. Also, what some here belittle as “giving at the office” is considered “solidarity” by the people who vote for and support the common welfare with their hard-earned income (and, incidentally, who recoil in horror at the threadbare public services the wealthiest country in the world offers its citizens).

  17. Dan,
    The Southern US is not as heavily taxed as other areas of the US. Southerners are typically conservative and religiously active. They tithe to their church, are self-sufficient, and eager to help a neighbor in need. They take the words of Christ seriously from the New Testament; in caring for the poor, hungry, and the fatherless.

  18. Some observations:

    1. Someone noted that the percentages are based on discretionary income. Because Mormons (most) pay tithing on gross income, I think this would inflate the percentages in Mormon communities. For example, the median giving for Provo is 13.9% of discretionary income. If we were to gauge the amount they give based on gross income, that percentage would drop considerably (amount spent/discretionary income gives a higher number than amount spent/gross income). So tithing isn’t doing quite so well as a first glance would indicate.

    2. I agree with Howard. Charity, to most non-members, is basically humanitarian aid, and it is given unobligatory. Subtract the tithing from these communities, and we aren’t actually doing that well. Tithing is great, and I pay faithfully, but I definitely wouldn’t use this study to try to prove that Mormons are really giving. It just won’t convince people.

  19. I disagree that tithing is not really charity. Parishioners in non-LDS congregations do not often know (or care) how much of their contributions are going to help the poor and how much is going to maintain their Church structure.

    In this case, discretionary income is a better measure than gross income, since it takes into account differing tax rates and housing/food/etc costs (see their notes on how they calculated discretionary income). This isnt comparing giving as a percentage of LDS discretionary income to non-LDS gross income. Graphing on gross income might even raise the percentage for some LDS communities.

  20. Ditto to what JA Benson said. Born and raised in Florida, have lived in the South most of my life. The tax rates down here are low, thus freeing up money for discretionary purposes (like charity).

  21. Except that they can often be fairly certain that a significant portion of their money will go to humanitarian efforts. Very little tithing is spent there. I’m personally okay with how the Church uses its funding, and it is technically charity, but it certainly isn’t the kind of charity described throughout the scriptures of taking care of the poor and needy. Being simplictic, if we take Provo’s 13.9% to charity, cut off 10% for tithing, we are talking about a worse percentage of humanitarian giving than you see most other parts of the country (e.g. the NE) where their percentages of giving are probably close to humanitarian-exclusive giving. That doesn’t say a lot for us.

    Also, I agree that discretionary income is a better measurement, but if we are looking at Provo’s 13.9%, and conclude that this indicates that the average Provo residents pays more than a full tithe, then we are misjudging the numbers. The average Provo full tithe payer pays x of g, where x represents a proportional amount of g, gross income. You can divide this number to see how much of their income they pay, and it should come to 10%. Now suppose you take x, and divide it by d, the amount of discretionary income, which is a lower number. Because d is always lower than g, and you are dividing by d to get a percentage related to x/d, your percentage will be higher than 10%. That means the average Provo resident does not pay a full tithe (based on incomes of $50,000+). I’m not attacking the Provo saints here, I’m just offering a word of caution against interpreting this data to suggest that the majority of Provo citizens pay a full tithe.

  22. DavidF, I don’t think you are thinking through this issue very well. Let’s say you donate $100 to a charity that gives money to starving people in Africa. Do you think that the African people involved actually receive $100 worth of stuff? No, there is an advertising budget, and a support staff, and there are transport costs of getting the charity over there, and then distribution costs and then local authorities usually take their cut. So, for $100 spent, the actual starving people may get anywhere from $50 to $10, depending on how honest the charity is. ALL charities are like this, even your local homeless shelter or your favorite soup kitchen (although the number may be 80 percent rather than 10 percent). All charities have some overhead.

    Non-church charity is not somehow automatically *better* than Church charities. Some are, some aren’t. The only charity that does not have any overhead at all is you giving money to the poor person directly, which is one of the reasons the Savior encourages direct charity (and one of the many reasons government charity doesn’t work).

    So, money from tithing goes to build chapels? Well, some charity sent to Africa goes to build HQ buildings for the local charity. Money from tithing goes to build a temple? Well, if you are a latter-day Saint you presumably believe that you are doing charity for people who are dead when you go to the temple, so this is “humanitarian aid” that cannot be provided any other way.

    The Church has bishop’s storehouses and has a huge network of international aid and has natural disaster aid (for hurricanes, etc). The Church welfare effort is huge.

    This notion that non-church charities are somehow more “humanitarian” than Church charities and that your tithing somehow doesn’t count shows an alarming lack of knowledge of a)how church charities work and b)how non-church charities work.

  23. And it also assumes that humanitarian giving is the only purpose of the tax bracket for charitable institutions.

    It amuses me how upset people are over the tax-exempt status of the Church because of City Creek. City Creek was a HUGE relief for the government, as anyone who lives in the area should know. Just like when the Church bought the street and fixed it up because the state couldn’t.

    And it wasn’t even tithing that was used for that.

    Seriously, folks.

  24. DavidF:

    Then again, Provo presumably doesn’t have a 100% Mormon population. The non-Mormon residents would bring down the average amount per resident given in tithes. So either the non-Mormon residents are also very generous; or else the Mormons have such a high rate of tithing that the average is still highest in the nation despite being lowered by the non-Mormons.

  25. I hope I may speak frankly without offending anyone, as a non-Mormon, regarding whether tithes qualify as charitable giving, which some here have disputed. It seems to me that in a sense they do, and in a sense they don’t.

    I would say they certainly qualify in the sense that they benefit a religious body, and that that religious body uses a certain proportion of tithes for activities which are charitable under any definition: food, clothing, shelter, etc. Both those things qualify as charitable giving under the tax code.

    But the word “charity” can be taken in another sense, meaning the type of love by which we do things purely for the love of God and neighbor, or in other words, out of the goodness of our hearts. Given that tithing is required for a temple recommend, it seems probable that tithing might often be done from mixed motives. Don’t get me wrong: Just because tithing is required for a temple recommend, doesn’t mean it can’t also be done purely for love of God and neighbor. I just doubt that the majority of Mormons (or of people of any other religion) are necessarily that pure-hearted.

    It seems to me parallel to an imaginary situation, in which tithing was required of Catholics in order to be able to receive Communion or any of the other sacraments. If that were the case, then surely a very large percentage of devout Catholics would tithe. And this would be an indication in most cases that they truly believe their religion: They would rather give up money than be deprived of the sacraments.

    But on the other hand, not everyone who values the sacraments does so out of pure motives. Some people receive the sacraments out of superstition or fear for their eternal destiny, rather than genuine faith and love of God; and some because they would be ashamed to have their families know that they have left the sacraments.

    So in short, tithing in many cases may well be done out of pure charity; but in other cases out of custom or habit, or due to fear of family or social shame. The fact that it’s a prerequisite to the full practice of the Mormon religion, seems to give it the air of something almost like a tax — though again, I’m not saying that Mormons tithe only out of coercion. No doubt most of them do it because they love and support the Church and believe it’s the best possible use of their money. I just wonder if without the “coercive” aspect of tithing, Mormons would necessarily still dominate the top 10 in this list.

    Again I don’t mean to give offense, I’m just trying to look at the subject objectively.

  26. Geoff G.

    I understand the points you bring up. The cool thing about giving humanitarian aid to the Church is that all the overhead is taken care of by tithing, or donated in terms of volunteer missionaries. Other charities, even the Red Cross, can’t claim that. I think non-members should give through our Church.

    Also, I am all for tithing. Meetinghouses and temples are absolutely critical. It even comforts me to know that my excess in US tithing money pays for meetinghouses for poor African members. I think that’s great.

    The point is, when I pay tithing, I am well aware that very little of what I pay is going to go to humanitarian assistance. I can spend extra money for that if I want, but if we assume that members give charity first, in the form of tithing, and then second, in the form of humanitarian service, then these numbers show that we don’t give very much money, proportionally, in the form of donations that people generally think of when they think about charity. Other people may give money to organizations that cut off a fair amount in overhead (which is often sad), but they are still intentionally giving their money to humanitarian aid, and the proportion of their giving to that sort of relief is similar too, or sometimes even greater than it is for us.

    That doesn’t make us bad people, by the way, but it makes the numbers less impressive from a humanitarian point of view. I think this website tells us a lot of interesting things, but I wouldn’t use it to show how amazing we are, if that makes sense.

  27. Agellius:

    1. You are right. There are a lot of non-members in Provo, and that will have a funky affect on the percentages.

    2. Your point on charity and tithing corresponds with the views of other non-Mormons and ex-Mormons I’ve talked to. That’s partly why I’m being such a Debbie-downer about what these statistics can tell us and what they can’t. Good on us Mormons for taking our religion seriously and paying tithing; not so good on us for not doing as much humanitarian giving as other parts of the country.

  28. David writes, “Good on us Mormons for taking our religion seriously and paying tithing; not so good on us for not doing as much humanitarian giving as other parts of the country.”

    Are you saying that even after giving 10% of their income in tithes, Mormons should still give as much as others give to non-tithe-related charitable causes? That’s asking an awful lot! :)

    Or are you saying the Church doesn’t do enough charitable work with the money it receives in tithes?

  29. Ahem…, gentle folk. Let me bring up one point that has been neglected as we, like US Citizen, have a tendency to beat up on ourselves and agree with others who do so. 1) Tithing goes for more than buildings and temples, as if that wasn’t enough, by way of helping the poor in every nation, and probably in every state in this nation. There is also the matter of the Church Seminaries and Institutes, church schools, etc., etc., And, we all know that some tithing is use to make up the difference in major humanitarian projects. But none of these is the thing that is being over looked. 2) There is a little place on the contribution slip for “offerings” and every bit of the monthly fast offering goes to help the poor, and where possible redistributed from more affluent ares to less affluent ones. Moreover, there are other lines available for more specific projects, as I mentioned in an earlier post–for the PEF, for helping people with temple travel, and major efforts when requested. We all know there are professional organizations of doctors, dentists, attorneys, and other experts who frequently unite for ongoing humanitarian efforts all over the world–sanitary water, wells, nutrition, and on and on. None of us knows what percentage of the 13+ percent given in Provo and Logan comes from “offerings”. And the other things I mentioned by professional organizations and people with expertise may not even be factored in at all. I have a daughter who is an attorney and I have no idea how much pro bono work she does, but it is an ethic of her profession. On the other hand, she and her older children are at a local food kitchen serving every month–totally unrelated to the Church and totally unaccounted for by the statistics we have been kicking around. Finally, I would like to bring up the definition of charity. Are we supposing that all the money the people give in the south say, goes to food clothing and shelter for the poor–or does a good deal of it go to educational institutions, battered women’s shelters, and other similar government agencies, or their own churches and their priorities for distributing the donations. I’m suggesting theirs isn’t a pure “humanitarian” effort any more than ours is, as we seem to be defining it in this conversation. For me is isn’t an either or situation. Did you see the Brian Williams thingy on the Church last night. The segment on the Church welfare was by far the best part, I thought. The reporter was amazed and what he saw the Church doing. I’m not having much anxiety over our collective or individual efforts in this regard. We shouldn’t overlook the Relief Society’s efforts locally and churchwide in humanitarian projects, and the DI. What other church or agency has anything this comprehensive–and yet, as we all agree, still inadequate to the need.

  30. Dan, good points. Frankly, I find the attempts to say that our tithing does not go to humanitarian efforts baffling, unless you want to say that only direct, one-to-one giving is humanitarian. I could see that argument, but that is not what is claimed. There seems to be this misperception that homeless shelters and soup kitchens are humanitarian and tithing is not. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as you point out.

  31. Agellius,

    I think the general counsel is that we are supposed to give generously on top of tithing. For most General Conferences, especially after a major world disaster, Church leaders encourage members to give more.

    Dan,

    Tithing is not used for humanitarian aid (at least not anymore). It is not listed here: http://mormon.org/faq/purpose-of-tithing

    Also, insofar as it was used in the past, the Church has given $1 billion in money and equivalent aid since 1985 (http://mormon.org/humanitarian-aid). That is a tremendous amount, and thank goodness for it, but it is miniscule when compared to even the most conservative estimates of annual tithing donations. I’m not criticising the Church. We need our meetinghouses and temples, and I trust the goodness of our leaders to spend the Lord’s money frugally. And though tithing does go to humanitarian aid still in the sense of covering the cost of overhead for humanitarian assistance, I’m not sure we could convince many people that this equates to actual humanitarian giving (like fast offerings are). By the way, I couldn’t find how the website collected its data, but I assume fast offerings were somehow taken into account?

  32. Back in the good old days, (you know, when men were men and women were women), giving to a church period was considered charity.

    Only now, in the ever-so-enlightened 21st century, do we parse whether giving to a church really means anything.

  33. Seems the more rich and secular you are, the less you give per capita.

    As people grow in prosperity, they become less generous, and less religious.

    We speak out of two sides of our mouths. We proclaim the gospel of prosperity through pure unbridled capitalism. But then when people do make it rich, we chide them for not being charitable.

    There is a solution for that: tax the rich.

  34. Nate, I gotta call you on this one. We haven’t had “pure unbridled capitalism,” or anything close to it, since 1913. Depending on who you speak to, we never have had it, because there was plenty of government interference in the 19th century in many ways (the railroads are a good example). I don’t chide anybody for “not being charitable” — it is their own business and their own suffering if they do not. The people who generally do the chiding are, in fact, the people who generally don’t give very much themselves but want to take money from other people for their own pet causes (ahem, Mr. President). So, your claim “tax the rich” does not follow in any rhetorical scheme but instead is just an empty slogan with zero relevance to this subject.

  35. Nate, as a further point, there does not appear to be much correlation between the least generous cities and the most prosperous cities. The most prosperous areas are always the wealthy neighborhoods of the big cities (NY, LA, Chicago) and the suburbs (Connecticut, NJ, some specific California suburbs). There is no indication that the wealthiest cities are in fact the least generous, according to this list. In fact, if you look at the least generous cities, you will see a lot of places like Laredo and Providence and Michigan City, Indiana that are not at all prosperous.

    So, your comments, once again, seems to be prepared for some pre-set agenda (“I hate rich people”) rather than being relevant to this post.

  36. I would also submit that while perhaps some Mormons do go around preaching the “gospel of prosperity” (which I assume is a gospel of ‘I’m wealthy because I’m righteous’), I find that most of my fellow parishioners in my neck of the woods understand the spiritual consequences of greed and try to avoid it.

    And yes, “pure unbridled capitalism” is a myth. We’ve had a mixed economy (half government/half business) for a long, long time. Also known as “crony capitalism”. Just talk to Bill Clinton; he was a big advocate of it. :)

  37. The difficuty with this discussion is that we are responding to raw data and amorphous definitions (e.g. what is or is not charity). In realiy a much more detailed study is needed to really make sense of this issue.

    For instance, factoring out church tithing or donations, gifts to service charities (e.g. United Crusade and giving to the ediface complexes. What would that show?

    It would also be interesting to do a random study of the time we spend for helping others and do such a study for other groups for comparison.

    It would also be interesting to see how insular our charity is? Do we give basically to our needy? How much do we give to non-Mormons?

    It would also take skilled sociologists and statisticians to interpret the data. You may remember the righteous venom of some attacking us for what appeared to be so little going into the Humanitarian fund

  38. Geoff, the evidence in the survey may not precisely be clear, as cities are not always collectively “wealthy” or “poor,” but many other surveys have concluded that the more wealthy you are, the less you give per capita, and the less religious you are, the less you give.

    Conservative ideology insists that people, of their own free will, will give enough charity to be able to be able to meet the needs of the poor, without government funded intervention.

    It seems this argument, and it’s counter-argument has direct bearing on the subject of your post. Do we, or do we not have a culture charitable enough to meet the needs of the poor without government intervention? Does taxation for social services make people feel less obligated to give privately? If taxation and social services were cut, how would we fare privately?

    My personal opinion, is that in a diverse, secular culture filled with rich, prosperous people, there will not be enough private charitable giving to meet the needs of the poor without a government safety net. This happens over and over in the Book of Mormon. People prosper thanks to economic freedom, forget God, and forget the poor.

    Socialism just assumes people are selfish and deals with it in a practical way, instead of letting societies swing on the pride cycle pendulum.

  39. LKB: You bring up the issue of how “insular” our giving is. It isn’t any secret that our fast offerings are used primarily for our “own” poor–that is largely by necessity. But over time as the Church has solved its financial problems with tithing and practicing what we preach about budgeting and avoiding debt, that our ability to help non-mormons has steadily grown. Of course our collective efforts in this regard produce a greater result than individual efforts.
    The same may also be true regarding individually helping non-members. As Zion has been more firmly established in the intermountain region we have been more and more able to use our energies elsewhere, and we receive much more encouragement from Church leaders to do so now than you find in the Journal of Discourses for example. With 14m people we hardly make a dent in a world wide need, but I’ve personally been thrilled to watch the evolution away from an almost totally insular effort to a much more expansive one. The efforts of Elder Hanks to institutionalize humanitarian service, beginning with FT missionaries, also has the effect of sensitizing some members at an earlier age with practical experience in serving and giving.
    We also must factor in the activity level of members, which world wide may be less than 50%. Presumably the less active will be less influenced by the stress now being given. Nevertheless, I think we are seeing a gradual increase in the percentage of tithe payers and those making offerings, giving humanitarian service, etc. We are not perfect and there is always room for more and faster improvement, and given the fallen nature of man, it will always be an uphill battle, but there seems to be evidence of steady improvement.

  40. Nate, number 44:

    “Conservative ideology insists that people, of their own free will, will give enough charity to be able to be able to meet the needs of the poor, without government funded intervention.”

    Nate, not even close to being right.

    First of all, modern-day conservatives accept the reality of the welfare state, while libertarian-leaning people like me do not. Conservatives like Romney-Ryan discuss saving Medicare and Social Security as government-run programs — I would like them phased out and replaced by completely voluntary programs. So, if you are going to make sweeping claims, you should try to get your descriptions right.

    The other issue you need to face head-on (but probably will avoid) is what exactly are the “needs of the poor.” If the “needs of the poor” is feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, then private charity would be more than adequate. But in case it is not, conservatives and (most) libertarians would accept enough government intervention to make sure everybody is fed and clothed. But of course left-wing ideology is always finding new needs. This is why we have 126 federal “anti-poverty” programs when we probably should have fewer than 10. So, should everybody be fed and clothed? Definitely, and even I support a government that does that. Should government be providing endless funding so that people never need to work? Er, no, and in fact that is the exact opposite of what the Gospel proclaims.

  41. DavidF @37, and others:

    “Tithing is not used for humanitarian aid (at least not anymore). It is not listed here: http://mormon.org/faq/purpose-of-tithing

    This new page (www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/humanitarian-aid-welfare-services-breakdown-donations-costs-resources), recently put up, details some of the ways that tithing is directly related to humanitarian work.

    Specifically:
    “While 100% of fast offerings and humanitarian donations go directly to those in need, the overhead and administrative costs associated with these programs—in addition to the resources needed to build storage facilities, house and deliver humanitarian aid supplies around the world, train volunteers and so on—are privately fronted by the Church. Today, thanks to a robust infrastructure, the Church continues to relieve the hunger, thirst, suffering and poverty of millions of people around the world and to empower individuals and communities to become more self-sustaining.”

    Tithing is utilized, “Supporting the Church’s welfare programs and humanitarian aid, which serve people around the world — both members of the Church as well as those who are not members.”

    While this topic/page has discussed some ideas of how to parse whether or not tithing would or would not fall under charitable giving, it seems clear that, while tithing is used to support many efforts that may not fall under a person’s definition of “humanitarian charity” (missionary work, building temples, etc), it is important in many aspects to the humanitarian efforts of the Church (I would include many things also mentioned on the page such as family services, counseling, the PEF, welfare, local and global initiatives, as well as the emergency response efforts of the church, as humanitarian aid), as it provides for and helps sustain the necessary framework for those efforts to proceed effectively. YMMV.

  42. Rew,

    This is essentially the point I was making. Tithing covers overhead so humanitarian aid can go directly where it is targeted. Overhead may be expensive (less so considering most workers are volunteers), but the expense is still relative to the amount of humanitarian aid actually given.

    As I mentioned, the Church has donated equivalent of $1 billion since 1985. Does this include the cost of overhead? They don’t say. Presumably not, since the Church did not count the cost of tithing used to finance GA expenses while campaigning against Prop 8 (which they came under fire for), but then again who knows.

    In any case, one website showed that the Catholic charities organization in D.C. spends 15.8% on operating costs. Suppose tithing was spent at a similar amount. That’s 160 million in tithing money spent since 1985. Is that really that much? Let us each judge that for ourselves.

  43. How many Mormons would give 10% or more of their income if it was not a commandment of the Lord? I would bet absent the commandment, you would see a regression to the mean.

  44. Danny-boy, you’re right. If only active, faithful Mormons would stop being so devoted to the commandments of their God, people could see that we’re really no different than your average secular humanist.

  45. Danny-boy,

    Your comment suggested to me that we(LDS)lack an altruistic motive for what giving we do. 18 of the top 25 cities in terms of giving are found in the south. Are you suggesting that they are somehow more altruistic than Latter-day Saints? Your point, however, seems to make God’s point–follow my laws and you lift and bless society too. Is that a negative in your view?

  46. Danny-boy misses the importance of creating a “zion society” in LDS theology. You don’t create a zion society by writing a check every month (although that is better than not writing a check). You create a zion society by people actually caring for each other and doing things for each other, and visiting to see if they need anything. Most churches envy the fact that Mormons actually spend a lot of time through service projects, home teaching, giving blessings, etc, going to each others’ home and helping each other. This is not captured in terms of tithing of fast offerings, because the service is free but it is nonetheless part of the Mormon community experience. So, claiming that Mormons would pay less if it they didn’t follow the commandments (as if this is a negative) misses the point entirely of the type of community Mormons are trying create. It is communitarianism without the force, or as I like to call it “voluntary communitarianism.”

  47. I sense some defensiveness to my comment above. No offence was intended, I was just pointing out that there are many reasons that people give to charity. Some do it out of love or altruism, some do it out of guilt, and some do it to be obedient to what the see as a divine commandment. Those who give in tithing obviously can fall into any of those three categories. Not all tithe-givers fall into any one of the three.

  48. And I should mention that I’m sorry if I offended anyone, as I think I might have. As I mentioned above, I didn’t intend that. I didn’t mean to comment on whether giving to charity merely or primarily because it is a commandment is a net positive or a net negative. I suspect that many Mormons would say that obeying God is of principal importance and is the best reason to give; others might disagree.

  49. Danny-boy, no offense taken. I really think it is more complex than that. Mormons believe that we go through a “mighty change of heart” when we convert, which means that we believe we truly become more Christ-like. If you are truly Christ-like you perform charity not because you are commanded to but because you want to. Now this does not mean that all of us really want to 100 percent of the time, but it does mean that we want to more than we used to before our conversions. So, saying that we do things just because we are commanded to is partially true but denies the realities of the Mormon conversion process. If you are truly Christ-like the desire to help others will surge inside of you, and this is the goal. Again, none of us is perfect but we try to be better people, and better people do not do things solely because they are commanded to.

  50. I doubt the person with the food order for their family or the warm coats and blankets for the winter cares about the motivation.

    But the reason most of us obey the commandment is out of increased love. So the issue is moot, anyways.

  51. Of course the recipient doesn’t care about motivations, but I don’t think the issue is moot–I thought that was kind of the point of this thread–to discuss why some areas of the U.S. as a whole tend to give more to charity than other areas of the U.S. You can’t discuss that issue without discussing motivations and the reasons people give.

  52. I understand what you are getting at, Geoff B., and I’m not doubting Mormons’ intentions. But what I am saying is that absent the commandment to give 10% tithing, I am doubting that most converted Mormons would give 10% or more of their income to charity. They would find ways to help and serve in other ways.

    Many people of other faiths in America are fully converted to their religions and desire to serve and help others, and yet they don’t reach the same levels of giving as the Mormons, as the chart about illustrates. Why not? You could say it is because only the Mormon Church is true and that the other religions therefore do not have the same effects that flow from conversion. But I prefer to see it as a function of the fact that there is a commandment–a “requirement”, if you will, to pay 10 per cent that applies within the Mormon Church. You don’t have to pay 10%, but if you are to be a temple-worthy Mormon you must.

  53. But even with what you say, the difference between “commandment” or “caring” is moot when taken in light of the whole. Those who follow the commandment do so because we love the Lord and care for His children. No one is looking over our shoulder, making sure we give the 10%. We are free to interpret that commandment or even lie about it. Perhaps without a specific minimum guideline, the percentage wouldn’t be the same. But that doesn’t change that the root of the giving is love for God, and for His children.

    So what I mean is that love and caring for the poor powers the charitable giving, and trying to parse whether it is by commandment or not is meaningless.

  54. SilverRain, I disagree that it is necessarily moot when you examine the results of the giving. If the result is undoubtedly a loaf of bread to a needy person, you are right that the motivation behind that loaf being given is moot. But someone who gives 10% to the Mormon Church in tithing will not create the identical effects as someone who gives 10% of his income to the local soup kitchen. One is not necessarily “worse” or “better” than the other, but it goes without saying that giving to different charities will have different effects in the real world.

    More importantly, I don’t think it is at all moot with respect to the issue being discussed, which is essentially “why do locales with a high percentage of Mormons give more to charity than other locales in the U.S.?”

    To many, “love of God” would be considered a less noble reason to give charity (even though the results could be categorized great) than some other reasons; but for believers, it is often the supreme (or best) reason.

  55. I think Danny-boy makes a good point. Someone once said there are three reasons people keep commandments (this is oversimplistic in my view, but it is in the right direction): fear, duty, love.

    Perhaps I give tithing because I’m afraid of the consequences if I don’t: I go to the Terrestrial kingdom at best.

    Perhaps I give tithing because it is what God expects of me, and I want to do what God wants me to do. This is duty.

    Then perhaps I give tithing out of love for others and my desire to show God I love Him enough to do whatever He asks.

    I agree, in part, with what SilverRain is saying. So long as the person gives, the motivation isn’t super important. However, I do think that if we are trying to become like God, we really want to change into the person who does it for love (like Dan Bachman is saying about conversion). It’s a good, better, best sort of thing in my opinion.

  56. For what it is worth to this thread, there is a related study done at the University of Pennsylvania which analyzed data from 2,664 church-attending LDS in the US. This was published in the Church News for 26 August 2012, p. 2. The researchers found that LDS “volunteer and donate significantly more than the average American “and are even more generous in time and money than the upper quintile of religious people in America.” The average American volunteers some 48 hours per year to charitable causes. An Active LDS volunteers 427.9 hours annually. [That’s almost 10 times more, DWB] The article comments on this thusly, “Although much of Church volunteerism is religious in nature, members also dedicated 151.9 hours annually to serving in the Church’s social and community initiatives, such as Boy Scouts… or the Church’s worldwide welfare and humanitarian aid programs.” 88.89 percent of active members tithe. Another item, “In addition, active members not only donate on average, a full 10 percent of their income to the Church, but donate $1,821 to other social and community causes.” The authors of the study concluded, “Overall, we found they are the most prosocial members of American society. Regardless of where they live, they are very generous with their time and money.” In October 2009 General Conference President Monson said “As we look heavenward, we inevitably larn of our responsibility to reach outward.”

  57. I overlooked the accompanying side bar, but there it breaks down the $1,821 as $650 given to welfare donations made through the Church (probably mostly fast offerings) and $1,171 in “non-Church related charitable donations.” The 427.9 hours of service are also broken down: 34 hours volunteering for non-Church affiliated charitable causes, 55.7 hours for community social care efforts sponsored by the Church, 96.2 hours for congregational social care efforts sponsored by the Church [home and visiting teaching?] and 242 hours of religious volunteering for the Church.

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