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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Caught in the ACT

    <ritable donations are generally considered a private matter in American society. The average Carleton student probably has no idea what the average donation in the United States is, or even the percentage of income their parents donate to charity. Though the topic can often be sensitive, a look at giving by certain groups can be enlightening and challenge some of our assumptions.

    The sociologist authors of one recent book have chosen to focus on religion as a factor in charitable giving. Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give More to Charity attempts to examine charitable donations among American Christians. The authors conclude that one in five Christians gives no money at all to charity, and that this rate is higher in certain denominations. They find this number appalling, given that American Christians are “the most affluent single group of Christians in two thousand years of church history.”

    Lest any secular Carleton students feel smug, Christians are among the most generous groups in the United States. More than half of nonreligious

    Americans give no money to charity, and their average donation amounted to around one percent of income. Liberals tend to donate less money to charity than conservatives. This may be fruitfully contrasted with the average 8.2 percent donation among Evangelical Protestants.

    Other factors could explain these trends. Perhaps liberal support for tax increases to support welfare justifies reduced personal donations. Maybe evangelical churches have more strict guidelines on how much their members are required to give. One trend, however, cannot be explained so easily. Households with income below $20,000 a year gave a higher percentage of their income to charity than any other group. This difference is largely accounted for by the working poor, who get little to none of their income from welfare.

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