Even as the income gap widens, the wealthiest Americans are giving a smaller share of their income to charity, while low- and middle-income people are donating a larger share, according to an extensive analysis of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The Chronicle, a leading source of news coverage on the nonprofit world, said in a report released on Monday that Americans who earned $200,000 or more reduced the share of their income they gave to charity by 4.6 percent from 2006 to 2012. Those earning less than $100,000 donated 4.5 percent more of their income, the report said.
Wealthier Americans still increased their giving over that time period by $4.6 billion, donating a total of $77.5 billion in 2012, using inflation-adjusted dollars, the Chronicle said.
The Chronicle's editor, Stacy Palmer, said that wealthy donors were more likely to support the arts and higher education and less likely to give to social-service charities.
Tami Phillips of the Midnight Mission, a Los Angeles charity serving homeless people, credited gifts from low- and moderate-income people, for helping to sustain its programs during the recession.
"It hits closer to home," said Phillips. "Any day, they too could become homeless."
The Chronicle's rankings were compiled for states and metropolitan areas based on the ratio of contributions to adjusted gross income.
At the state level, Utah residents were the nation's most generous givers, donating $65.60 to charity for every $1,000 they earned. One factor is Utah's large population of Mormons, whose church practices call for them to give at least 10 percent of their income to the church.
Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee — also with high proportions of loyal churchgoers — were next in the rankings. At the bottom of the list was New Hampshire, where residents gave $17.40 for every $1,000 they earned. Its neighbors, Maine and Vermont, were the next lowest.
All of the states that ranked in the top 17 of charitable giving in the analysis were won in 2012 by the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, while nine of the bottom 10 voted for President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
Palmer suggested that the low rankings for northern New England stemmed in part from low rates of church attendance, but also from residents' "independent streak" and a tradition of self-reliance.
Nevada was the state with the fastest-growing rate of donations as a share of income, jumping nearly 13 percent from 2006 to 2012. Its major metropolis, Las Vegas, was the fastest-growing city in terms of generosity, rising 21 places since 2006 in a ranking of the country's 50 largest urban areas.
North Dakota experienced the biggest decline in giving. Residents reduced the share of income they donated by nearly 16 percent, contributing $24 for every $1,000 earned on average. The Chronicle said that dip could have serious implications, given the increasing demand for social services as newcomers stream in to take advantage of the state's oil boom.
Changes in giving patterns were most pronounced in major cities, where the percentage of income that residents donated dropped markedly between 2006 and 2012, according to the report.
In Philadelphia and Buffalo, New York, the share of income given to charity fell by more than 10 percent, and there was a 9 percent drop in Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington, D.C.
Among the 50 largest cities, Utah's Salt Lake City had the most generous residents, giving away 5.4 percent of their incomes. It was followed by Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta and Nashville, Tennessee.
In sixth place was Jacksonville, Florida — which trailed only Las Vegas for the biggest growth rate in giving between 2006 and 2012.
The report detailed how Jacksonville donors had rallied behind a campaign to improve the region's public schools via a Quality Education for All fund launched in 2005 with a goal of raising $50 million. The effort has borne fruit, with Duval County's graduation rate rising from 53.5 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2013, and a new campaign is underway focusing on 37 of the district's historically lowest-performing schools.
The cities where residents gave the smallest share of their income to charity were Hartford, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island and San Jose, California.
Al Jazeera and Associated Press