GIVING MYTHS BUSTED

Arthur Brooks, the author of “Who Really Cares” has studied America’s giving habits extensively.  And what he’s discovered is surprising…or is it?

ARE LIBERALS HYPOCRITES OR JUST CONSISTENT?

“When you look at the data, it turns out conservatives give about 30 percent more [to charities]. And incidentally, conservative-headed families make slightly less money.”

And he says the differences in giving goes beyond money, pointing out that conservatives are 18 percent more likely to donate blood as well. He says this difference is not about politics, but about the different way conservatives and liberals view government and, therefore, their own responsibility or role in meeting the needs of society.

“You find that people who believe it’s the government’s job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away,” Brooks says. And people who disagree with the statement, “The government has a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves,” are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.  In other words, if you think it’s the government’s job to help people in need, you probably don’t help people in need.  Is that hypocrisy or just consistency?

HOW THE RICH STAY RICH

Brooks also reports that households (in America) with incomes exceeding $1 million (about 7 percent of the population) make 50 percent of all charitable donations.  That’s quite a large percentage, so are the rich (as defined by Brooked) more generous than the rest of the population?

Brooks first breaks America into three classes: rich, middle class, and working poor. “The two most generous groups in America are the rich and the working poor,” says Brooks. “The middle class give the least.” But the working poor give the largest percentage of their incomes to those in need, a more sizeable chunk than the rich – 30 percent more.

Brooks wonders if this is because the working poor have needed charity in the past or know someone who does or believe they’ll need it sometime in the future.  To bend Brooks’ research a little here, could it be that a lack of wealth creates empathy for those in need?  Or, in other words, comfort contributes to a calloused attitude toward the uncomfortable?

GOOD NEWS ABOUT RELIGION

Lastly, “religious people” are much more likely to give to charities of all kinds, and when they give, they give more money – four times as much.

“…the truth is that they’re giving to more than their churches,” Brooks says. “The religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly non-religious charities.”

So, my questions, for now, is this: Are the giving conservatives conservatives because they’re religious or are they religious because they are conservative?  Are the working poor the working poor because they’re religious or are they religious because they’re poor? How much is belief driving giving really?  More than social class or political philosophy?  How about you?  How do your faith, politics and finances determine your giving habits?