Good signs for Utah from study of charitable giving

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A recent study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy looked at Americans after-tax charitable giving based on recent tax returns to determine how financially generous people around the country are. The results should be very encouraging for Utahns.

Utah ranked #1 in generosity, with the “primary reason” being “the Mormon tradition of tithing,” according to the study. The average Utahn gave $5,255 to charitable organizations in 2008 (the most recent year comprehensive tax data was available), amounting to 10.6 percent of discretionary income. Utah “far outpace[d]” any other state, with second place Mississippi coming in at 7.6 percent of discretionary income going to charities. Statewide, Utahns contributed $2.4 billion in total to charities (tied with Arizona and Colorado for 18th most).

The report also found Utah to be the “hands-down winner” in volunteerism rates. A full 45 percent of Utahns volunteered in 2008, with Nebraska coming in second place at 40 percent.

Just as encouraging was the fact that the four most generous metro areas (and six of the top ten most generous metro areas) were in Utah, including Provo, Logan, St. George, Ogden, and Salt Lake City. When this list is limited just to the 50 largest metro areas, Salt Lake City tops the list. The figures for the top ten metro areas (all metro areas included) are below:


Metro Area

Median Contribution

Percent of Discretionary Income

Total Contributions


Provo, Utah





Logan, Utah





St. George, Utah





Ogden, Utah





Idaho Falls, Idaho





Salt Lake City





Pine Bluff, Ark.





Albany, Ga.





Jackson, Tenn.





Jackson, Miss.




Another interesting finding from the study for Utahns was the connection between charitable giving and religious participation. The researchers reported that more religious regions of the country gave more than less-religious areas, largely due to religious donations.

Clearly, Utah has a leg up when it comes to charitable giving and volunteerism. As the study suggests, this is likely due to Utah’s high levels of religious participation and the associated generosity such participation engenders. Inasmuch as religion and religious liberty are essential pillars of freedom – establishing the moral order and the foundation for thriving communities where people want to live – Utah, it would seem, is an example to the nation.

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