NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 2, 2008

Residents of Austin, Texas, home of the state's government and flagship university, have very refined social consciences.  However, according to Don R. Willett, a justice of the state Supreme Court, Austin subverts a stereotype: "The belief that liberals care more about the poor may scratch a partisan or ideological itch, but the facts are hostile witnesses."

Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism."  The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives:

  • Although liberal families' incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).
  • Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.
  • Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.
  • Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.
  • In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.
  • People who reject the idea that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

Reviewing Brooks' book in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, Justice Willett notes that Austin, which voted 56 percent for John Kerry while he was getting just 38 percent statewide -- is ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as 48th out of America's 50 largest cities in per capita charitable giving.

Source: George Will, "Bleeding Hearts but Tight Fists," Washington Post, March 27, 2008.

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