Monday, December 3, 2018
From today's NY Times:
NASHVILLE — There’s a meme about charitable giving that makes the rounds in Southern social media circles from time to time. It’s a map of United States counties color-coded by charitable giving, and it purports to demonstrate that people living in red states give a greater percentage of their income to charity than people living in blue states. The caption beneath the map reads, “Those heartless conservatives — am I right?”
The map was created in 2013 from a report in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Donors in Southern states,” the report notes, “give roughly 5.2 percent of their discretionary income to charity — both to religious and to secular groups — compared with donors in the Northeast, who give 4.0 percent.”
These are figures that Southerners, accustomed to being thought selfish and cruel by the rest of the country, will happily create a meme to promote.
There are many problems with a map like this, but the biggest is that it’s based on the filings of taxpayers who itemize deductions. The vast majority of American taxpayers — some 70 percent — don’t itemize anyway, so there’s really no way to know how many people actually make charitable donations and how much they give when they do. Even so, it has become a cultural commonplace: People in red states are more generous than everyone else.