I came across an article that appeared in the New York Times called “Bleeding Heart Tightwads” by Nicholas D. Kristof. Kristof, a liberal, goes on to say that liberals tend to be stingy when it comes to giving to charity. I found it to be very interesting and also contradictory to what I originally believed. I had always in the past believed liberals to be the group that is extremely generous and more prone to give to charity than Republicans. This is because liberals tend to push for policies that focus on using government spending to increase opportunities for the needy, something that is consistent of a charitable nature. After reading this article and doing some further research I decided to use Finder! and Maker! to display some of my findings on the subject.
In Kristof’s article he says he used the source, The Catalogue of Philanthropy to measure generosity by state. I went to this source and decided to map the inverse of what they call their “Generosity Index Ranking”. The site describes the index as rank of each state’s average adjusted gross income (AAGI) to the rank of each state’s average itemized charitable deductions (AICD). The arithmetical differences between these two rankings are then themselves ranked, resulting in the Generosity Index rank. So to basically sum it up the Generosity Index measures who spends a greater percentage of their income on charitable causes.
I mapped the Catalogue of Philanthropy’s figures for 1996, 2000, and 2004 because these years coincided with Presidential Elections were you would be able to see which states were red (conservative) or blue (liberal). The following combined datasets are mapped below. The orange states represent states that were red (conservative) and the blue states represent states that were blue (liberal). Also, the white circles represent the Inverse Generosity Index Ranking for the state. A larger white circle means a top ranking or that residents of the state contribute a larger percentage of their income to charity. Pay close attention to the average generosity scores at the bottom of each map. (Please click on images for a larger view or go to their Maker! weblink below the picture for an interactive view)
Average Red State Generosity Index Score = 33.84, Average Blue State Generosity Index Score = 11.89
Average Red State Generosity Index Score = 32.80, Average Blue State Generosity Index Score = 14.55
Average Red State Generosity Index Score = 35.37, Average Blue State Generosity Index Score = 19.45
During all three years states that voted republican had higher Inverse Generosity Index Scores as a whole over states that voted democratic according to the average index scores. Just by looking at the maps you can see that the orange colored states (conservative states) have the larger white circles (high rankings) and the blue colored states (liberal states) have the smaller white circles (low rankings). The next map shows states that during all three elections in 96, 00, and 04 voted for the same party versus an average of the state’s Inverse Generosity Index score for those three years. This is to give a good overall average of how very democratic states compare to very republican states when it comes to giving to charity.
Average Red State Generosity Index Score = 35.35, Average Blue State Generosity Index Score = 12.46
As you can see from the above map the data from past Presidential Elections the truly republican states have higher generosity rankings than the states that have solely voted for democrats. So maybe it is true that republicans are more generous.
Kristof in his article says that liberals often claim these findings are misleading because conservative states have higher religious populations. This causes their charity to go toward building big churches which is not accurate of measuring charity. I decided to take a close look at this accusation.
Below I mapped percentages of state populations that say they practice no religion (Dark Blue = high no religion population, dark orange = low no religion population) from a 2001 study by a group from Graduate Center of the City University of New York. I then compared these figures with the Inverse Generosity Index rankings from 2000. By doing this I figured it would give a look at how states with high religious participation gave to charity and how it compared to how states with low religious populations gave to charity.
Do liberals have a valid accusation? According to this map it appears so. For the most part it seems that dark orange states, the states that have high religious populations, have large black circles which indicate that they have a higher Inverse Generosity Index. Also most of the dark blue states have small black circles. But there are still a few outliers and when comparing correlations between no religion vs. charity to politics vs. charity we see that there is a stronger correlation between politics vs. charity (see below).
Values closer to -1 or a slope that is almost a straight line, show strong correlations. Therefore we see that low activity in church vs. generosity does not show as strong of a correlation as politics vs. charity. So can liberals really say that their lack of giving is because they are not giving to churches as much as conservatives? Are the facts about religious participation strong enough to discredit the facts on political participation?
So are liberals stingier than conservatives?. The data has suggested that they are. One thing that I am unhappy with is that this data is somewhat dated with the most recent year being in 2004 for philanthropy stats from the Catalogue of Philanthropy. I am anxious to see if the trend has continued into the present and am eager to compare 2008 charity figures with red and blue states from the 2008 Presidential Election.
Overall, I like how Kristof does not see the data as a negative, but a way to encourage more of his fellow liberals to contribute more. He states in his article, “Come on liberals, redeem yourselves, and put your wallets where your hearts are.”
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