NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Is Giving In America?

December 21, 2000

Who, as a group, are the most generous Americans? According to a new report, "Philanthropy in the American Economy," from the President's Council of Economic Advisers:

  • In 1998, 70 percent of American households made charitable contributions.
  • The most generous contributors are the elderly.
  • African-Americans, when the numbers are adjusted for income, are more likely to give than whites.
  • And single women are more likely to make contributions than single men.

According to a study by the Federal Reserve Board's survey of consumer finances, the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans provide about two-thirds of all charitable contributions. But the second poorest quintile of households by income contribute about 1.3 percent of their income to charity while the very wealthiest donate less than one-half of 1 percent.

Over 40 percent of charitable contributions go to churches and religious organizations. Education, receiving about 15 percent of contributions, comes in at a distant second.

The vast majority of giving, the report finds, comes from individuals; foundations are next, and corporate giving comprises only about 6 percent of the total.

Corporate giving is expected to reach about $12 billion this year (that doesn't include some important in-kind contributions). Corporate gifts as a percentage of profits climbed to 1.3 percent in 1999, but this is considerably below the levels that prevailed throughout most of the 1980s.

Source: Albert R. Hunt "Charitable Giving: Good but We Can Do Better," Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2000.

For WSJ text:


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