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Summer 1998
City Journal Summer 1998.
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What Gives?
Jason Bertsch
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Al and Tipper Gore gave $353 to charity in 1997 about 0.18 percent of their $197,729 income and one-third the average amount given by Americans who donated to charities last year. The Gore’s parsimony caused the vice president some well-deserved embarrassment. After all, aren’t liberals supposed to be more caring?  Looking at U.S. philanthropic giving as a whole, there’s more embarrassing news for "compassionate" liberals. Recent studies from the nonprofit Independent Sector and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the folks most ready to offer their time and money are married, employed, college-educated, churchgoing white parents of young children. Fully 71 percent of regular churchgoers do volunteer work almost twice the rate for non-churchgoers. Not an overwhelmingly liberal bunch.

Regional differences tell a similar tale. According to the Internal Revenue Service, the six New England states—which tend to be liberal politically are the most Scrooge-like. Greater Boston, for example, ranks fourth nationwide among American cities in per-capita income; in charitable giving it ranks 28th. But if New Englanders are stingy givers, where can we find the most generous Americans? Utah is on top, according to the IRS, with the average contribution a munificent $4,593 (compared with Massachusetts’ $1,919). The next in line are Wyoming, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana again, not exactly the most left-wing states in the union. Of the ten most unstinting states, eight voted for Bob Dole in the 1996 presidential election; nine of the ten most miserly states supported Bill Clinton. All of which skirts an interesting question: will it look better or worse when the Gores, remembering the criticism of 1997, give several thousand dollars to charity in 1998?

 

 


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