Arizona ranks last for charitable giving and California ranks last for volunteering and other service, according to a recent survey conducted by the consumer financial website WalletHub.
The report compared 50 states across 19 key indicators of charitable behavior ranging from volunteer rates to share of income donated to share of sheltered homeless. Data analyzed came from the U.S. Census Bureau, Fraser Institute, National Center for Charitable Statistics, Internal Revenue Service, Feeding America, Charity Navigator and Gallup, among others.
Arizona’s lowest ranking came from having one of the lowest percentages of its population donating time, lowest percentage of collecting and distributing food, and having the fewest number of charities per capita.
The report also noted that blue states were about 3.5 percent more generous than red states in 2019.
The top state for overall charitable giving, volunteering and service is Minnesota, the report found. Following Minnesota in the top 10 is Utah, Maryland, Oregon, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Maine.
The least charitable states after Arizona were New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, Nevada, Rhode Island, Hawaii, California, West Virginia and Iowa. Texas ranked 40th.
“The United States of America is the world’s most generous country over the last 10 years,” the annual CAF World Giving Index 10th edition found. “Consistently high numbers of Americans say that they helped a stranger, donated money or volunteered time and this has ensured its position as highest performer when we look at the last decade as a whole.”
In 2018, U.S. residents gave more than $427 billion to charity, Adam McCann, financial writer for WalletHub, notes, with 68 percent of the funds coming directly from individuals, according to the National Philanthropic Trust.
“We know from national data that U.S. households on average donate approximately 3-5% of adjusted gross income to charity,” Robert L. Fischer, associate professor at Case Western University, said. “Individuals in many faith traditions aspire to give closer to 10% to charity. Giving is a personal choice that offers an opportunity to express one’s values and contribute to social change.”
Federal tax reform created a disincentive for individuals to donate to charity and use it as a tax write-off.
The 2017-18 Income tax changes at the federal level increased significantly the number of individual tax returns taking standard, rather than itemized, deductions.
"Charitable contributions only benefit the donor if they itemize, so fewer taxpayers are able to receive a tax benefit for making charitable donations,” William J. Smith, professor at the University of West Georgia, said. “This reduces the incentive for charitable donations for those families well under the limit for itemizing, and this represents a large number of potential gifts.”
“The tax reform act reduced tax rates and raised the standard deduction,” Becky Jones, senior lecturer at Baylor University, said. “Both of these changes decreased the tax incentives for giving. One way that people can maximize the tax savings from giving is to double giving in one year to be able to deduct the gift and give nothing in the alternate year and take the standard deduction.”
In addition to giving financially, Americans are also committed to volunteering their time and talents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 60 million Americans volunteered in 2015, giving an estimated $184 billion in service to their communities.
Seniors lead the way in time spent volunteering, while individuals between the ages of 35 and 54 volunteer at the highest rates, the bureau notes.