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How America Gives is The Chronicle of Philanthropy's comprehensive report examining generosity nationwide as well as by state, metropolitan area, county, city, and ZIP code.
The data can be broken down further into giving by income, age, and race.
For questions about these data, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The data in How America Gives come from tax records from the Internal Revenue Service for 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. The Chronicle used that information to determine how much people gave to charity as a percentage of their income after paying taxes and spending on housing and other necessities, known as discretionary income.
Our study includes only taxpayers who reported total income of $50,000 or more—because of discrepancies in the data for those earning less—and only people who itemized their charitable contributions.
Because not all taxpayers itemize their charitable contributions, no precise data exist for all donations. But since most people who make $50,000 or more do itemize, the IRS data provide useful insights about giving in America. The donations in the Chronicle study account for about $135-billion of the $214-billion that "Giving USA" estimates individuals contributed in 2008.
In some cases, the numbers can seem skewed because of people's circumstances. For example, because the study tracks giving as a percentage of income, some communities with large numbers of retired people, who typically have low incomes but often give from savings and other assets, give a very high percentage of income.
To provide additional insights on giving, The Chronicle used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to examine demographic trends, such as age, educational attainment, and race.
To protect taxpayers' privacy, the IRS releases only compiled statistics rather than personal information about taxpayers or any portions of individuals tax returns.
How America Gives is based on exact dollar amounts released by the Internal Revenue Service showing the value of charitable deductions claimed by American taxpayers.
To provide a fair analysis, The Chronicle's rankings show the percentage of their income that households donated from the money they had left after paying their taxes and covering housing, food and other essential expenses.
To determine discretionary income, The Chronicle started with adjusted gross income, which includes income from all sources less alimony, student-loan interest, tuition and fees, and a few other expenses. From this amount, The Chronicle subtracted the amounts of taxes paid in federal income tax (not counting tax credits), Social Security and Medicare taxes, and state and local income taxes.
Also subtracted in the study:
• Median housing costs for homeowners and renters based on ZIP code, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Housing costs include rent or mortgage payments as well as real-estate taxes, property insurance, condominium fees, mobile-home costs, utilities, and fuel. Those expenses were adjusted for returns in different income categories.
• Average living expenses compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those expenses include food, clothing, transportation, health care, child care, and household expenses such as cleaning supplies.
The Chronicle consulted numerous experts experts on giving and taxes to prepare this study. The newspaper's approach was reviewed by Philip Wirtz, chair of the department of decision sciences and psychology at George Washington University; Jon Bakija, professor of economics at Williams College; Tom Pollak, program director at the Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics.
Other scholars of philanthropy who provided advice include Charles Clotfelter, a professor and director of the Center for the Study of Philanthropy and Volunteerism at Duke University; and Paul Schervish, director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College.
Data acquisition and research:
Noelle Barton, Lisa Chiu
Todd Messer, Derek Lieu, Marcy Walker, Robert Watson
Robert Watson, Marcy Walker
Joseph Clark, Kimler Corey, Cody Switzer, Emily Gipple
Kimler Corey, Joseph Clark, Todd Messer
Derek Lieu, Todd Messer
Emily Gipple, Peter Panepento, Marilyn Dickey
Peter Panepento, Kimler Corey
Learn how tax breaks, politics, faith, and even the neighborhoods Americans call home, can have a profound effect on generosity.