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Mapping Generosity: New Tool Highlights Giving-est Places by Zipcode Mapping Generosity: New Tool Highlights Giving-est Places by Zipcode
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Mapping Generosity: New Tool Highlights Giving-est Places by Zipcode

by Zachary Slobig

August 23, 2012

In the era of crowd-funding and kick-starting and indie-go-going, the Chronicle Of Philanthropy just rolled out a nifty interactive tool that takes a really close look at where the deepest pockets are these days. The results may surprise you. 

It turns out that, when measured as a percentage of discretionary income, poor and middle class people give more than the rich—sometimes considerably more. Red states out-give blue states by bucket loads of cash—Utah leads the pack with nearly 11 percent of discretionary income and seven more red states top the chart before the first appearance of a blue one (North Carolina). New Englanders turn out to be the most miserly: Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine are all near the bottom and "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire comes in dead last with residents setting aside only a paltry 2.5 percent of discretionary income for charity.

To be fair, religion plays a major role in these regional giving patterns—the bible belt states lead the giving pack, but if you looks only at secular giving, the Northeast gives the most. 

Spend a little time mousing around the interactive zipcode map and things start to get really interesting. I just moved from a neighborhood in Los Angeles with a discretionary income of $32,530, the residents of which give 4.8 percent annually. The residents of my new neighborhood in San Francisco have nearly $20,000 more in discretionary income, yet they only give 3.5 percent annually. There's also a major metropolitan ranking—Salt Lake City leaps to the top with 9 percent of discretionary income (all those tithing Mormons) while Providence, Rhode Island sits at the bottom.

Perhaps the most revealing finding of the study is that top income earners are more likely to give generously if they live in mixed income communities—essentially when need is more visible, giving increases. Where rich people are heavily clustered, like in those gilded, gated communities, giving drops to a tiny 2.8 percent, despite high discretionary income.

Perhaps these dynamics are one reason web- and social media-based fundraising has exploded—the transaction has become freed somewhat from geography.

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