Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Who really cares

From The Chronicle of Philanthropy [via Arts and Letters], a report on who actually gives to those in need - it isn't necessarily those who talk most loudly about injustice:
In Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (Basic Books), Arthur C. Brooks finds that religious conservatives are far more charitable than secular liberals, and that those who support the idea that government should redistribute income are among the least likely to dig into their own wallets to help others....

"This book is a call to action for the left, not a celebration of the right," Mr. Brooks says.....

His initial research for Who Really Cares revealed that religion played a far more significant role in giving than he had previously believed. In 2000, religious people gave about three and a half times as much as secular people - $2,210 versus $642. And even when religious giving is excluded from the numbers, Mr. Brooks found, religious people still give $88 more per year to nonreligious charities.

He writes that religious people are more likely than the nonreligious to volunteer for secular charitable activities, give blood, and return money when they are accidentally given too much change. "There is not one measurably significant way I have ever found in which religious people are not more charitable than nonreligious people," Mr. Brooks says. "The fact is, if it weren't for religious people in your community, the PTA would shut down."

Byron R. Johnson, a sociology professor and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, says he recently gathered data that show similar results - such as high levels of civic engagement among religious people - while assembling a report on faith in America that was released in September.

"It was not surprising to me that the lil ol' farmer in South Dakota outgave people in San Francisco," Mr. Johnson says. "But I think to the everyday citizen, this might strike them as counterintuitive."

Mr. Brooks ... writes that households headed by a conservative give roughly 30 percent more to charity each year than households headed by a liberal, despite the fact that the liberal families on average earn slightly more.

... Most of the difference in giving among conservatives and liberals gets back to religion. Religious liberals give nearly as much as religious conservatives, Mr. Brooks found. And secular conservatives are even less generous than secular liberals. [emphasis added]

At the outset of his research, Mr. Brooks had assumed that those who favor a large role for government would be most likely to give to charity. But in fact, the opposite is true.

..."In essence, for many Americans, political opinions are a substitute for personal checks," Mr. Brooks writes.

Mr. Brooks says the data show that religious people, on average, give 54 percent more per year than secular people to human-welfare charities. Some of those charities may be religiously affiliated, but their work is focused on charity and not religion, he says.

In his book, Mr. Brooks examines giving among the poor. When looking at households with equivalent income, the working poor give three times as much as welfare recipients.

... Near the end of the book, Mr. Brooks lays out the case that philanthropy is as good for the donor as for the receiver, citing data showing that giving makes one happier and healthier....

Source: The Chronicle, 11/23/2006: Charity's Political Divide

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