Data Tracker

Many of America's poorest communities dig deepest for charity

By Phillip Reese -

When it comes to charitable giving in the United States, it's not the wealthy northeast and West Coast communities that contribute at the highest rates. It's the southern states, Utah and parts of Idaho.

Forty-eight of the 50 counties whose residents gave the highest proportion of their income to charity in 2013 were located in those areas, according to recently released IRS figures detailing itemized tax returns. Several of the counties reporting the highest rates of giving are in impoverished areas of Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.

Religion likely plays a big role in explaining the numbers. A large proportion of charitable giving in those places goes to churches. Residents in Utah and Idaho, home to large Mormon populations, and the South, a center for evangelical Christians, are encouraged from the pulpit to tithe, the practice of giving 10 percent of one's income to church.

There is a strong correlation between the proportion of residents in a state that, according to Gallup, consider themselves very religious and the proportion of income in the state that goes to charity.

Sources: IRS; Franchise Tax Board | Note: Only includes itemized tax returns. Those returns account for about 70 percent of the income earned in the Sacramento region.