Casting Stones

Do “conservatives” give more to charitable causes than “liberals”? According to Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks, they do. Dr. Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, was quite astounded with the results of his own research, which was so at variance with the common perception of the generous “liberal” and the Scrooge-like “conservative.”
In his book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservativism (Basic Books, 2006), Brooks discovered that approximately equal percentages of liberals and conservatives give to private charitable causes. However, conservatives gave about 30 percent more money per year to private charitable causes, even though his study found liberal families earned an average of 6 percent more per year in income than did conservative families. This greater generosity among conservative families proved to be true in Brooks’ research for every income group, “from poor to middle class to rich.”
This “giving gap” also extended beyond money to time donated to charitable causes, as well. Brooks also discovered that in 2002, conservative Americans were much more likely to donate blood each year than liberals and to do so more often within a year. Brooks found “if liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply in the United States would jump by about 45 percent.”
When Brooks compared his findings to IRS data on the percentage of household income given away, he found that “red” states in the 2004 election were more charitable than “blue” states. Brooks found that 24 of the 25 states that were above average in family charitable giving voted for Bush in 2004, and 17 of the 25 states below average in giving voted for Kerry. Brooks concluded, “The electoral map and the charity map are remarkably similar.”
Why? A clue may be found in the 1996 General Social Survey, which asked Americans whether they agreed that “the government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality.” People who “disagreed strongly” with that statement gave 12 times more money to charity per year than those who “agreed strongly” with the statement.
One’s values, beliefs and political philosophies seem to impact how much one shares of one’s own income with the less fortunate in society. Facts are often surprising and illuminating.


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