Liberal Tightwads and Compassionate Conservatives

It truly is a Christmas miracle that the New York Times printed an article over the weekend called Bleeding Heart Tightwads. The columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof, admits what many of us have always instinctively known, that conservatives are more generous than liberals. He cites three studies in his column, all of which support the conclusion that liberals are far more stingy in their charitable giving than conservatives:

  • Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals.
  • A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.
  • The “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states (Republican voting states) are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states (Democrat voting states) are least likely to do so.

Kristof further says, “when liberals see the data on giving, they tend to protest that conservatives look good only because they shower dollars on churches — that a fair amount of that money isn’t helping the poor, but simply constructing lavish spires…(but) according to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded…(still) conservatives are more generous than liberals.”

Now after reading this, I wanted to dig into the numbers myself. Not that I don’t believe Kristof or his sources, I do, but like the name of my blog indicates, I like to analyze things. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find on the Internet any of the data he referenced in his column. Good data is so hard to come by 🙂 But I did find a report called Volunteering in America, which has state by state trends from 2002 to 2005. The volunteer rate cited in the report is the percentage of the population, 16 years of age or older, that participates in volunteering activities. As you can see in the chart below, 8 of the top 10 states are traditional Republican states, so the data seems to back up Kristof’s conclusions that conservatives are more generous in their giving.

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