Bible Belt giving – Urban Institute survey

People in the Bible Belt give the most to charity relative to their income, while people in New England and a handful of industrial states give the least, a new survey says.

The most generous state was Mississippi and the stingiest was Massachusetts, the Associated Press reported Sept. 18, citing a survey by the National Center for Charitable Statistics of the Urban Institute.

The survey – which reviewed 1998 tax returns, comparing the average adjusted gross income in each state with its average itemized charitable deduction – attributed giving patterns to cost of living, state tax laws and religious differences.

While it ranked 49th in the U.S. with an average income of just over $31,000, Mississippi topped the states with an average charitable contribution of just over $4,000, said the survey, which was released by the Committee to Encourage Charitable Giving.

Massachusetts, with average income of more than $51,000, ranked last for the fourth time in six years with an average contribution of $2,600.

New England states were clustered together at the bottom, joined by Minnesota. New Jersey, Illinois and Maryland.

New England has a higher percentage of Catholics, who are less likely to give to churches than are Protestants, who dominate the South, said officials who released the study.

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