Middle class Americans give larger share of income to charity than do the rich

Not only can’t we rely on them to create jobs – but we can’t rely on them to give charity either. A new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy examined tax deduction data from the IRS and discovered that middle class Americans give a larger share of their income to charity than do the rich. A household earning between $50,000 and $75,000 averaged contributing 7.6% of their income to charity. But as the income scale goes up – that percentage drops.

For those making more than $100,000 a year – only 4.2% was given to charity. And for those making more than $200,000 a year, the charity rate was just 2.8%. The far Right – people who adore Ayn Rand and Libertarians – argue we don’t need a social safety net in this country – or even a government to look out for the poor – because rich people will simply step up with charity.

These facts show the lie in that argument. But they do support a different argument – and that is that the rich – not all – but a lot – are less sympathetic than the middle class. After all, being holed up in your gated communities, driven around by a chauffeur, attending high-priced private education – it is often easy to overlook the plight of your fellow Americans.


Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

"...being holed up in your gated communities, driven around by a chauffeur, attending high-priced private education – it is often easy to overlook the plight of your fellow Americans."

That's why, instead of creating such a fuss (and often damage) in "our" communities, the people should swarm to those "gated communities" and show those rich snobs what it is all about! All the snobs have to do now is turn off their wall-sized, hi-def TVs...or change the channel. They obviously don't watch RT or Free Speech TV.

The people could swarm to major airports and really clog up their travels. Merely demonstrating in the streets of their own communities won't do much to change things.

When MLK was killed, traffic was pretty much brought to a standstill on the beltway around DC.

What could the police really do if all over the cities masses of people clogged business as usual by occupying banks?
We way outnumber the police and even the military. This may be the reason why the government may have leaked the stories about the millions of rounds of hollow point bullets being ordered by TSA, SSA, and other agencies. They are trying to scare us into submission.

I suspect, as the droughts worsen (due to global warming) and crops continue to dwindle and prices continue to skyrocket and when businesses continue to cause more unemployment by laying people off and then finally take away social security and medicare that people will finally be driven to really do something rather than rely on a corrupt democratic system. When loved ones begin suffering and/or dying off because of the criminally disastrous and rigged system they may decide there is nothing left to lose.....but their chains.

LoneMarauder's picture
LoneMarauder 11 years 43 weeks ago

You hit almost all the memes... you forgot "Bush's fault". I give you an 8.5/10.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

Not giving to charity is nothing compared to the overall scheme of financial fraud that will result in the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of people...and the criminal elite who have rigged the system by sneaking in, on New Years Eve, the NDAA laws that criminalize dissent.

RT interview of Naomi Wolf on "US Instigating Violent Crackdown on Whistleblowers and Dissent"

RT:Why hasn’t the NDAA story been a bigger story in American mainstream media? This was a huge issue. This bill was signed in when people were celebrating New Year’s Eve. And then, nobody heard about it on mainstream media. Why do think that is?

NW: When I talk to journalists, senior people who are running major news sites and opinion sites, I would say, did you know that the due process clause was suspended on New Year’s Eve? And their like, “What? Surely not!” Because they did not see the coverage. Any coverage would be buried and obfuscated. And no one’s giving these people orders to not cover it. I was listening to these historic arguments of the American president’s lawyers saying he had the right to round up journalists. And there was no ABC, NBC, no NPR, no CNN, no Fox News, nobody was there. And the best explanation I have is denial. Maybe it’s such a huge story that no one can really believe that this is happening, so we can’t cover it, but I do think that what we’re seeing right now – and I predicted this would happen in November of last year – is a crackdown against Occupy Wall Street, the criminalization of dissent, the bullying of journalists. I think it’s a little to do with what we’re seeing in the news right now, this huge fraud being uncovered in the banking sector. HSBC, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Barclays, Bank of England, fraud, fraud, fraud. Not marginal fraud, but clearly systemic fraud. And I just wrote a piece about this for The Guardian. Tim Geithner finds out about this in 2008, writes an e-mail, doesn’t leak the news or call a press conference, and then becomes Treasury Secretary. So, it’s clear that there’s a small group of guys and girls who are in on massive fraud. So this Occupy movement, and journalism, threaten to uncover a lot of crimes if the books are ever opened. And in an electronic world, these crimes last forever. So that now is my working theory about why we’re seeing such a sudden and violent crackdown on reporting, on dissent, on whistleblowers.

....Naomi Wolf: My immediate take is a profound feeling of nausea and a sense that somehow, the United States has collapsed into the Soviet Union circa the mid-1930s.


Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

And you have avoided the fact that Obama has continued with what Bush started. So do you really think Obama is any better than Bush?

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

How to infiltrate, inform on, and set up a radical organization to take the bait in their own demise:

"The man who gave the Black Panther Party some of its first firearms and weapons training – which preceded fatal shootouts with Oakland police in the turbulent 1960s – was an undercover FBI informer, according to a former bureau agent and an FBI report."

"One of the Bay Area’s most prominent radical activists of the era, Richard Masato Aoki was known as a fierce militant who touted his street-fighting abilities. He was a member of several radical groups before joining and arming the Panthers, whose members received international notoriety for brandishing weapons during patrols of the Oakland police and a protest at the state Legislature."

"Aoki went on to work for 25 years as a teacher, counselor and administrator at the Peralta Community College District, and after his suicide in 2009, he was revered as a fearless radical."

"But unbeknownst to his fellow activists, Aoki had served as an FBI intelligence informant, covertly filing reports on a wide range of Bay Area political groups, according to the bureau agent who recruited him."

"That agent, Burney Threadgill Jr., recalled that he approached Aoki in the late 1950s, about the time Aoki was graduating from Berkeley High School. He asked Aoki if he would join left-wing groups and report to the FBI. "

"M. Wesley Swearingen, a retired FBI agent who has criticized unlawful bureau surveillance activities under the late Director J. Edgar Hoover, reviewed some of the FBI's records. He concluded in a sworn declaration – filed in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records on Aoki – that Aoki had been an informant."
"Swearingen served in the FBI from 1951 to 1977, and worked on a squad that investigated the Panthers." 


SueN's picture
SueN 11 years 43 weeks ago

It would be interesting to know what kind of charities, how they define the word. Organizations that do good works, or to churches for church administration or political organizations?

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

If I were very wealthy and belonged to the Church of Satan and were running for President...do you think that my donations to my church would count as charity...even if those funds were used to help feed people in need? Since I am atheist, I really don't even believe in Satan (or God)..it's all superstitious nonsense to me. But, I'm sure that a lot of people who fancy themselves as Christians don't believe that Romney's contributions to his church really amounts to "charities". Yes, it really all depends on weather those contributions goes to the poor and needy or helps to build another ridiculous cathedral somewhere. Oz-like cathedrals are architecturally interesting to look at but are really a misplacement of money that could go for feeding the needy. Same goes for the many other religions...especially Catholic...that waste tons of money on such things. And yes, the hordes of believers usually are the suckers who can least afford it give up the most to those bastions of superstition.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

It's funny how these politicians...both Romney and Obama have increased their "charity" giving in an election year. It should also be realized that "charity" is useful in lowering taxes. So "charity" can also be viewed as a way to avoid paying the tax amount you otherwise would have had to pay anyway. And these people can really be creative in avoiding paying their taxes. Buy a painting, for example, at a flea market or auction house, for say $1000.00....hold on to it for a few years...then donate it to "charity" writing off the new "assessed" value of say...$50,000.

brett4096's picture
brett4096 11 years 43 weeks ago

i never get anything from the local pbs station asking me for money in the mail.

my tax accountant explained to me that i dont get flyers from local Detroit PBS stations because I make over $50k per year. apparently people who make almost nothing give to charaitable / non profit because they are so used to having nothing... if they have cash to spare they give it up.

that's the way he explained it to me. i dont even know if its true. he's an accountant. I didnt think he was lying to me.

SHFabian's picture
SHFabian 11 years 43 weeks ago

Interestingly, so little of this goes to fellow Americans in poverty.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 11 years 43 weeks ago

Charity!......Is that like when a piggish CEO makes himself look good by donating money his employees actually earned but never received.... all because there were no rules or unions to prevent him from stealing from his workers by freezing wages, cutting health insurance, and retirement contributions?

What surprises me is that anyone would believe that greed could be self-regulated!......... Just ask the Kochs about this....they're laughing their asses off at how easy it is to manipulate teabaggers like Ryan and the Republican Party into helping them achieve unending greed!

MarcJohnson's picture
MarcJohnson 11 years 43 weeks ago

Did you also notice that the "greedy" red states gave more than the "generous" blue states?

MarcJohnson's picture
MarcJohnson 11 years 43 weeks ago

The most generous states (Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho and Arkansas) all are red states and gave the highest percent of income. The least generous states (Wisconsin, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire) all are blue states and gave the lowest percent of income. Utah lead with 10.6% and Newshire gave the least at 2.5%.

For those of you who don't realize it, the campaign contributions are not considered charitable contributions.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

But it wasn't the rich in those red states that gave...it was the poor, and largely religious people, who are easy to talk out of their money....just mention Jesus and God and you've got them suckered. Why do you think religious people, poor people, old people are constantly picked on by rapacious capitalist wolves who use every sales tactic in the book...including running scam charities that skim off the top after they run tear-jerking ads of some poor little dears barely fed and clothed? Why do you think those people are constantly hammered with telemarketers, insurance salesmen, televangelists, and other hucksters....because they are relatively easy to confuse and to trick out of their money. Most rich people did not get that way by being stupid...they got that way, largely, by being devious and rapacious....that is..if they didn't inherit daddy's money to begin with. So, you can try to paint red states as being more giving but you need to look a little deeper in to the matter before trying to hype it as a virtue. It is not the rich people in those states that are outstripping blue states in charitable giving it is those who can least afford it. So we are really back to square one...rich people...no matter red state or blue state just don't give to charity (especially without getting a tax write off) as much as lower earners do (and the lower you go, the less of a tax write off the charity giver can benefit from).

MerlinD's picture
MerlinD 11 years 43 weeks ago

Trying using real numbers next time Thom, percentagtes hide the real truth all too often.But you know that don't you?

For your claims let's look at real numbers along with your percents

7.6% of 50K = 3,800

4.2% of 100K = 4,200

2.8% of 200K = 5,600

See how percentages are decieving Sure the percentage drops but the real amount, in dollars, which is what really counts goes up. But you don't use real numbers, do you, no you slant the truth with illusions and what amounts to lies.

MerlinD's picture
MerlinD 11 years 43 weeks ago

BTW Thom what's your income level and how much do you donate to [real] charities?

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

$3,800 is valued a lot more to someone who makes $50k than $5,600 is valued to someone who makes $200k. People on the lower scales need that money to buy necessities...people on the upper end of the scale don't...it is more discretionary. When people on the upper end of the scale have a lot of discretionary income they don't have to worry as much about just trying to get by. The difference between $5,600 and $3800 is $1800. The difference between $200,000 and $50,000 is $150,000. $1800.00 is practically meaningless when you make $150,000 more than those who make only $50,000. If those who make $200,000 were to donate, percentage-wise, the same amount as the persons making only $50,000...ie: 7.6%...they would have to shell out $7,600....which would be $3,400 more than what they donate at a mere 2.8%. Yes, I see how you have used your numbers to make it seem like the rich are more charitable than the lower income people..but nobody will be stupid enough to accept your rationale...except for fellow Tea-partiers, perhaps.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

And the higher "tax brackets" get a much larger tax break than the lower "tax brackets" from charitable donations. If I was in a 10% tax bracket and gave $1,000 to charity...I'd get back $100. But if I was in a 35% "tax bracket" I would get back $350.


humanitys team's picture
humanitys team 11 years 43 weeks ago

MerlinD, If you have say 50 dollars and you gave 10 to charity and another person has 400 dollars and gives 40 dollars ,who is giving more?

Yes In terms of dollars the person has given more but as a percentage, the person that has the least to give has given the most .

The illusion is the opposite of what you say as John f Kennedy said, to those who have been given much ,much is asked,America that has the most in real wealth gives below it,s abundance in percentage terms,there are many countries that do more in the world to help in terms of aid than some of the richest countries.

Greed has become one of the biggest problems our planet at this time individual and collective,but this is just a thought ,as there is enough to go around for everyone ,all we have to do is share and share alike ,on this planet right now there are about 400 people that have the same wealth as half of the worlds population are these people giving or just taking because the system is rigged in there favour.

Idaglia's picture
Idaglia 11 years 43 weeks ago

While the Investor Class looks towards China and India for cheap labor and high investment returns, I'd like to know:

How many jobs has Mitt Romney created in the United States when practicing his private equity investment runs that squander the life blood of U.S. businesses? This was supposed to be the idealogue borne out of Reagan's 'Trickle Down Effect'. To the Fascist Elephants out there we are still waiting . . .

And, I don't mean Wal-Mart, Target, Hobby Lobby, or Minimum-Wage JOBS!

No Fraud's picture
No Fraud 11 years 43 weeks ago

Said it before...I'll say it again; It's time to change our way of thinking so people and planet last.

Let me elaborate...

Country's uneasy
Feeling betrayed
We the people are paying
For the mistakes others have made
The time is coming [the time is NOW]
For us to realize
We must break out from these corrupt government lies

We must resist the urge for power
Who can you trust
Who is incontrol

History shows us that
all governments do decline
From healthy ideas
which in time are tread upon
Let us begin to learn
from the mistakes of the past
Change our way of thinking
So people and planet last

We must resist the urge for power
Who can you trust
Who is in control

(Resist the Urge For Power. No Fraud; Hard To the Core)

No Fraud's picture
No Fraud 11 years 43 weeks ago

The facts from the study do not surprise me...I have done many hours of volunteer work for charities and community churches and have been a first hand witness to who is donating and what they are donating. And yes the majority of those who donate the most are those who have the least.
My theory on why this is...Those that are struggling to make ends meet understand first hand the need for selfless acts of helping those less fortunate...The Hungry...The ill...The houseless...Those that need clothes...Those who need a job...An out reaching hand to help one get back on their feet.
I myself have been in dire straights...Without the help of several community out-reach programms - made possable by donations and volunteers - I would have ended up out on the streets.

What makes my head spin and steam shoot out my ears...Selfish Uber rich people that take, take, take, and then take some more, but give very little if anything at all. SHAME ON ALL OF YOU!!!Especially those who sing about being a Christian.

No Fraud's picture
No Fraud 11 years 43 weeks ago

MerlinD...You miss the point!!!

The point being made is the comparison between income and percentage amount donated...Of those who donate the poor (once known as the middle class) donate a greater percentage of their income. Those who make 6 figures and more donate the least amount (comparable).
I like your figures because it further supports the study. Yes the total amount donated by the higher income is more, but the person with the lesser income gave a greater percent of their income; making the point that those with the least give more of what they have compared to those with the more gave the least of what they have.
I don't have a problem with the idea of being able to make uber amounts of money...BUT...I'd like to see those with the money step-up to the plate and give like they are poor!

Life isn't about hording or wasting. When Gandhi was murdered he had only a wrap of clothing, his glasses, a walking stick, and a bowl and spoon...Yet he gave and accomplished more than all the wealthy and powerfull men of his time.

No Fraud's picture
No Fraud 11 years 43 weeks ago

Do you really believe what I think you are saying??? If so I am going to start praying...And I don't believe in prayer

Recovering conservative2's picture
Recovering cons... 11 years 43 weeks ago

Hey Dude, Thom's post was talking about the perccent of income NOT TOTAL amount, the point being that it is A BIGGER sacrifice for the poorer people to give a higher percentage of their income than it is the wealthly. Jesus made the same point about giving to the church. Does the Right wing Bible not have Mark and Matthew in it? It seems that all the teaching about giving and helping your fellow man have been lost.

Mark 12:41-44
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

skepticalscott 11 years 43 weeks ago


Here Slavoj Zizek explains why Charity is Bull Shit! And in why in a civil society charity shouldn't be needed.

In this short RSA Animate, renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving.


Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 43 weeks ago

Zizek is great, isn't he? Now if I can only understand him....
Loved that RSA animates way of presenting information..at least we don't have to watch Zizek constantly wiping his nose....but he is a very intelligent guy...for sure.

I watched a couple of those RSA animates...what a way to caption!

Terry Allen 11 years 43 weeks ago

Well, I hate to pile on, but it seems to me that you might be missing the point here (but don't worry, I expect the Republicans to use your figures rather than Thom's, so thanks for helping them out with the math). The facts are, first, that all these percentages are far less than the percentages any of us pay in taxes, so the rich are definitely not filling in any holes in the safety net with their charitable giving. And I've heard the same things from the Ayn Rand crowd: the rich will contribute more to charity if you just remove this horrible tax burden from them. Well...first, they won't contribute anywhere near the percentage to charity that they now contribute in taxes, because people who think they're being overtaxed will not start "overgiving" just because they suddenly have control of more of 'their own money' (as Dubya liked to say).

Oh, but there's another point I should bring up: central to Romney's tax plan (think of this every time you hear him utter the phrase "broaden the tax base") is this: he wants to cancel the deduction for charitable giving (as well as the deduction for home mortgage interest). Now, if you accept the idea that the rich are in a higher tax bracket than the poor (only true for some rich people, of course, but probably true for more than half of them), this means that the people at the lower end of the wealth scale aren't even getting the same or better tax break for the same number of dollars. You seem to like math, so here's some more math for you:

For each thousand dollars a taxpayer gives to charity...

If they're in the 15% tax bracket,their taxes are reduced by $150.

If they're in the 25% tax bracket, their taxes are reduced by $250.

If they're in the 31% tax bracket, their taxes are reduced by $310.

So let's go back to the numbers you thoughtfully provided for us, and for illustration, I'm going to assume (and I can tell you're a pretty eagle-eyed person when it comes to assumptions, so feel free to change the assumptions as you like) that these are middle class families with homes, and large enough families that they happen to fall respectivey into the marginal tax brackets I just mentioned.

So the family making $50K sees their taxes reduced by $570. It's like they gave $3230 to charity, and the government, touched to the core of its flinty little heart, kicked in an extra $570.

The family making $100K sees their taxes reduced by $1050, but typically only gives $400 more than the $50K family. So they pocket the difference. Sweet! Here, it's like giving $3150 to charity, and having the government pony up a relatively astonishing $1050. But make no mistake, they actually give less to charity in absolute terms (once you factor out the corrupting 'social engineering' aspects of the tax code) than the family making half as much.

The family making $200K sees their taxes reduced by $1736, but gives $1800 more than the $50K family. Here it seems to me to be pretty much a wash (but hey, you're the math guy, so you tell me). If they'd contributed nothing beyond what the $50K family contributed, they would of course keep their money, but their tax bill would exactly offset the charitable contributions they retained. So for families in this bracket, it seems that they're not so much giving to charity as re-directing some of their tax dollars to those charities. Viewed a little differently, though, we can say that the average family making $200K gives $3864 to charity, and the government matches it with another $1736.

But here's the real nub of the problem: if Family A is making twice as much as Family B, you really do need to explain why Family A isn't giving twice as much (in absolute terms) to charity. I mean, the percentages are all pretty small (well, I guess 7.8% isn't really small, but the percentages for the higher brackets certainly are). Do you know some reason why families in the $100K bracket would be less able (or willing) to give (on a percentage basis) than families in the $50K bracket? The only reason I can think of is that they might feel less sympathy for the poor. But the data won't necessarily support that. It could be that the $100K family is contributing their entire 4.2% to soup kitchens and homeless shelters, while the $50K family is directing their 7.8% charitable contributions to symphony tickets. I think that's unlikely, but it might be true. Who knows?

If I were in charge of re-writing the tax code (and you should probably be glad I'm not, 'cause I certainly am...) I would probably give everyone a flat 25% credit on their income taxes for whatever they gave to charity, and of course no deduction other than that.

I'd also like to see what people with incomes in the $500K or $5M range give -- particularly since there might be a new tax bracket above $250K. Any data on that?

Geraldine Rieman 11 years 42 weeks ago

Many times, Fox news O'Reilly has said that charity should help poor people, not the government.

Many churches are struggling as people cannot give money or as much money anymore, they have lost their jobs. I have attended churches like this, they put their money problems in the church bulletin to show people that they don't have enough money. The churches for the most part help only those "in" their congregation.

Last week, on the radio, in Southern California, a very well-known very wealthy pastor said that they try to help people in their church, but the people keep coming back for more and more, and that, "We (the church) are NOT the Welfare Dept.

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

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Please follow us across to hartmannreport.com - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From Unequal Protection, 2nd Edition:
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