It Turns Out Conservatives Really Are Compassionate

Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University whose work involves public policy and philanthropy, has written a new book called Who Really Cares: America’s Charity Divide: Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. His boldface conclusion? As summarized in this interesting article, Brooks found that “religious conservatives donate far more money than secular liberals to all sorts of charitable activities, irrespective of income.”

President and Mrs. George W. Bush certainly did their part. According to their 2005 tax return, the Bushes had taxable income of $618,694 and contributed $75,560 to charitable organizations that included the American Red Cross (Hurricane 2005 Relief), the Salvation Army (Hurricane 2005 Relief), the Salvation Army (Pakistan Earthquake Relief), Martha’s Table, the Archdiocese of New Orleans Catholic Charities, the Mississippi Food Network, and the Federal Government’s Combined Federal Campaign.

(Hat tip: Chad Erickson)

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  1. BigDaddyP says:

    Since this is about economics, how about you discuss how tax deductible donations are really paid for by all taxpayers, not just those that are donating. How about we talk about how everyone in this country is paying the bill to have huge churches built. By making the donations deductible, you lower the income of the country and that has to be made up by everyone. I’ll leave the details to the experts.

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  2. BigDaddyP says:

    Since this is about economics, how about you discuss how tax deductible donations are really paid for by all taxpayers, not just those that are donating. How about we talk about how everyone in this country is paying the bill to have huge churches built. By making the donations deductible, you lower the income of the country and that has to be made up by everyone. I’ll leave the details to the experts.

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  3. phashemi says:

    Would be interesting to see more detail than the article gives. In graduate school, I worked at an institute that researched giving and volunteering, and learned that something like 50% of US charitable giving (according to the IRS) goes to churches; and while SOME of that is undoubtedly going to help the poor, etc., much of it is of a different nature entirely than true charity. In some ways, it’s more analogous to a tax (some of which ALSO goes to helping the poor!) – the question is really whether you trust the institutions of state or religion to handle that money, and obviously religious conservatives and secular liberals answer that question differently. If Brooks’ findings haven’t controlled for religious giving, this reads as a cynical bid for big shocking headlines… but if he has (and I imagine he has), then it’ll be a really interesting read.

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    • Isaac says:

      Looks like somebody didn’t read the article. It was controlled for tithing and church giving. Even if you eliminate that, the conservatives and Christians STILL give more.

      Anyway, a church, in most cases, is a net positive for a community. Church attendence is the leading factor preventing urban youth from breaking the law. Churches are clearinghouses for all manner of assistance to the poor. And church volunteers are less prone to corruption or bungling of funds.

      How much government assistance goes to pimps and drug dealers who qualify because they don’t document their income? Do you think a church would pull an ACORN and set up a child sex trader with tax funding?

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    • Nancy Szabados says:

      What does it matter? $5 out of my pocket is $5 out of my pocket whether it went to a church or to UNICEF. I am so tired of liberals like you trying to excuse yourself and your lack of charitable giving by attacking where I charity goes.

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  4. phashemi says:

    Would be interesting to see more detail than the article gives. In graduate school, I worked at an institute that researched giving and volunteering, and learned that something like 50% of US charitable giving (according to the IRS) goes to churches; and while SOME of that is undoubtedly going to help the poor, etc., much of it is of a different nature entirely than true charity. In some ways, it’s more analogous to a tax (some of which ALSO goes to helping the poor!) – the question is really whether you trust the institutions of state or religion to handle that money, and obviously religious conservatives and secular liberals answer that question differently. If Brooks’ findings haven’t controlled for religious giving, this reads as a cynical bid for big shocking headlines… but if he has (and I imagine he has), then it’ll be a really interesting read.

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  5. rico_suave says:

    I’m not sure cutting a check qualifies as compassion. Especially when other motivations could be fitting in with a group (church), a tax deduction, or with the knowledge your tax returns will be scrutinized (our president).

    Has anyone ever been with a conservative who passes a homeless man on the street. It’s not a pretty sight. Bottom line is that it’s easy to play a role in your church where everybody looks and talks just like you. Taking that attitude out into the real world is a different story.

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  6. rico_suave says:

    I’m not sure cutting a check qualifies as compassion. Especially when other motivations could be fitting in with a group (church), a tax deduction, or with the knowledge your tax returns will be scrutinized (our president).

    Has anyone ever been with a conservative who passes a homeless man on the street. It’s not a pretty sight. Bottom line is that it’s easy to play a role in your church where everybody looks and talks just like you. Taking that attitude out into the real world is a different story.

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    • Isaac says:

      Church giving is generally kept very private, and no sane person gives $50 so that they can defer being taxed on $50 worth of income. That’s a net loss. You don’t make a profit on it.

      Sociology is how we objectively learn things. Without it, we have various competing anecdotes, like “I totally saw a conservative pass a homeless guy on the street.”

      If conservatives give and volunteer more than you, try to ask yourself why, and what you can learn from them. Don’t just cling to your prejudices.

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  7. wesleyb41 says:

    The hat tip for this blog goes to a friend of mine here in TN. We discussed this over dinner one night and figured it was a political ideology thing.

    I seem to recall that when Gore and Bush were in the 2000 race, the tax returns for each were released for 2000 in 2001. Gore had given 6.2% of his AGI. G. W. Bush gave 19.3% of his AGI.

    Kudos Chad, kudos.

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  8. wesleyb41 says:

    The hat tip for this blog goes to a friend of mine here in TN. We discussed this over dinner one night and figured it was a political ideology thing.

    I seem to recall that when Gore and Bush were in the 2000 race, the tax returns for each were released for 2000 in 2001. Gore had given 6.2% of his AGI. G. W. Bush gave 19.3% of his AGI.

    Kudos Chad, kudos.

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