Are Canadians Really More Generous Than Americans?

From the SuperFreakonomics chapter on altruism: “Americans in particular are famously generous, donating about $300 billion a year to charity, more than 2 percent of the nation’s GDP.” That said, the conventional wisdom seems to hold that Americans are outclassed by our neighbors to the north. A new report by The Fraser Institute, however, challenges this wisdom: “[E]ven the most generous Canadians don’t match the level of charitable giving found in the United States. Monetary generosity in the U.S. surpassed that of Canada, with 27.3 per cent of American tax filers donating to charity, compared to 23.6 per cent of Canadian tax filers. In comparing Canadian provinces to American states on the overall index, Canadian provinces and territories occupy six of the bottom 10 rankings, with Manitoba, Canada’s highest-ranked jurisdiction, ranking 35th overall.” According to Charles Lammam, co-author of the report: “The notion that Canadians are more generous that Americans is a myth, at least when it comes to private monetary charitable giving.” Within the U.S., Utah is the most generous state, where “33.7 percent of tax filers donating 3.20 percent of the total income earned in the state.” (HT: Ricardo Bortolon) [%comments]

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  1. Diego.CMS says:

    According to the numbers given, Americans are more generous than Canadians. The US percentages for charity are higher, so economically speaking the Americans are more charitable. The opportunity cost for both countries are really similar. But, apparently the marginal cost for one country is better than the other. One country is having more benefits through this actions taken. Americans are more generous than Canadian, if people use this date of the percentages of GDP for charity.

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  2. Thomas Ludwig says:

    While this is an interesting point of data, is this a methodologically valid way to compare rates of charitable giving? The U.S. and Canada have different tax codes and forms, and whether or not one claims a deduction on their tax forms may or may not reflect whether or not they donated. In my personal situation I did not have enough deductions in 2009 to itemize, since I do not have mortgage interest to deduct. Thus entering my charitable contributions made no difference to my end tax bill–so I didn’t enter them.

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  3. PDQ says:

    I’m curious- In Utah, how much of that goes to the church?

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  4. MarkAndStat says:

    See footnote 4 of the report. The gap is probably wider than reported because of the differential tax laws in the United States and Canada. The study apparently did not account for the proportion of people in the United States who itemize their taxes which a google search shows is less than 50%. The study seems to imply that households that do not itemize are assumed not have not made any charitable contributions. In addition there are likely significant differences in the patterns of charitable giving between those who itemize and those who do not.

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  5. KewZee says:

    Does part of the taxes paid by the Canadians for things American taxes don’t pay for count as charity (however involuntary)? Just saying, if my taxes paid for children’s healthcare, I wouldn’t feel the need to donate as much either.

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  6. mary vant hull says:

    If one could subtract American giving to their churches &/or to Christian missionaries all around the world, would these figures still hold up? Perhaps not.

    Also, question: Do Canadians have similar tax breaks for charitable giving?

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  7. PDQ says:

    Also, FWIW, in the World Giving Index, published by the Charities Aid Foundation, the numbers are reversed – they say more Canadians (and Brits and Aussies and Kiwis and Irish…) give money to charities than Americans. They use Gallup poll data from 153 nations, which may be less objective than tax return data…but on the other hand, do all tax filers bother to report charitable contributions? (We’re personally in the AMT group, so itemizing doesn’t help us).

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/sep/08/charitable-giving-country

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  8. Barbara M. says:

    We may not be more generous on an individual basis, but it is possible that we have more social supports for people than Americans. We pay higher taxes than Americans do. In Ontario, for example, a large proportion of the tax revenues goes to health care and education. Both of these are highly valued by all Canadians.

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