Utah and Mormons are the most generous — and not just on #GivingTuesday

By: Jana Riess, RNS
November 29, 2016 Updated: November 29, 2016 at 5:49 pm
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Utah is tops among all 50 states in generosity, according to a new report released this week at WalletHub.

The report breaks down “generosity” into two main categories – a state’s rate of volunteerism and the percentage of income its people spend on charitable donations.

In Utah, people donate an impressive 6.6% of their income to charity. New Hampshire was the stingiest, with just 1.6% of income given away.

Utah also ranks first in the percentage of people who say they donated their time (56%) and the total number of hours they volunteered (75.6 per person, nearly four times the volunteer hours of the lowest state, Kentucky).

WalletHub does not parse its state-by-state findings with regard to religion, but given Utah’s majority Mormon population it’s not surprising that the state came first in charitable giving. According to social science research discussed by Christian Smith and others, Mormons rank first among all religious groups in the United States in terms of charitable giving, donating 5.2% of income.*

That’s barely half of the 10% “gold standard” that Mormons are taught to strive for, but it’s nearly two percentage points higher than the next-most-generous group (Pentecostals, who give 3.4%) and far higher than the miserly Jehovah’s Witnesses (.9%), the nonreligious (1.1%) and Roman Catholics (1.5%).

Expectations are key to generosity, Smith finds. Religious groups that set a high (and clearly stated) standard, like Mormons do, are more likely to raise up members who tithe.

For example, only one out of a hundred “tithe-paying” Christians—those who give at least 10% of their income to charity—come from religions that expect members to give between 1-4% of their income. On the other hand, a quarter of full tithe-payers “are in churches that . . . expect members to give 10 percent or more of their income.” (Smith, Passing the Plate, 35)

Such high expectations – and, in Mormonism, the knowledge that only a full tithe can grant a member access to the LDS temple – help to create a culture of givers, says Smith.

And that’s true every day of the year, not just on #GivingTuesday.

* Due to the small number of Mormons in this study on philanthropic giving, researchers say that results “should be treated with caution.”

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