Friday Facts: Making the News

In the Friday Facts of  April 18, the Foundation shared the news that Georgia ranks second only to Utah among the 50 states in the percentage of income given to charities. The Savannah Morning News turned that Friday Fact into a great editorial!

IF IT’S better to give than to receive — charity is, after all, one of the three theological virtues — then Georgians should pat themselves on the back.

Modestly, of course.

That’s because the Fraser Institute, a respected public policy research group in Canada, has ranked Georgia second only to Utah among the 50 states in the percentage of income given to charities.

Those familiar with the tradition of giving to the less fortunate in this area — the annual United Way campaign and this newspaper’s Empty Stocking Fund during the Christmas holidays come to mind — shouldn’t be surprised that charity is alive and well across Georgia.

But what’s eye-opening, and heartening, is that Georgians are digging deeper into their own wallets than residents in other states — even though people elsewhere have higher incomes.

To put it another way, it’s easy for a fat cat to write a check. It’s tough for an ordinary citizen on limited means to donate to charity, especially during difficult economic times.

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a think tank in Atlanta, highlighted the Fraser Institute’s report Friday. The Canadian organization annually produces a “Generosity Index” that examines charitable giving in Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories, as well as in America’s political subdivisions. Researchers used data from income tax filings (from 2011) and other sources to calculate which places are more generous or more miserly.

Here’s how Georgia stacked up.

Researchers found that nearly 28 percent of Georgia tax filers gave to charity. That’s a respectable 18th place nationwide (Maryland was No. 1, with an amazing 40 percent).

But when you look at the percentage of aggregate personal income donated to charity — a fancy way of saying how deep did givers dig — Georgians jumped all the way to No. 2, donating 1.84 percent of their incomes to worthy causes.

For some reason, states with the most depth in charitable giving tended to be in the South — Alabama (3), South Carolina (6), North Carolina (7), Mississippi (10) and Tennessee (11).

Are politics and religion factors? The South is more conservative than other regions. It has a large percentage of churchgoers, too. But readers can draw their own conclusions. The Fraser Institute didn’t.

However, it did point out that Canadians gave considerably smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than Americans. In fact, only one province — Manitoba — managed to out-give a U.S. state.

The researchers concluded that Canadian charities have a tough time helping those who need assistance. Fortunately, thanks to generous Georgians, that’s less of a problem here.

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