Why Idaho Is One Of The Most Generous States

Dec 15, 2014

A recent report from the finance website Wallet Hub says Idaho is the third most-generous state (tied with Kansas). Utah and South Dakota topped the list. Wallet Hub looked at volunteer time and money donated using IRS statistics and survey data.

Other organizations make similar lists and Idaho usually comes out near the top. A couple months ago we told you about a report on charitable giving from The Chronicle of Philanthropy. That report ranked Idaho as having the seventh-highest giving ratio among residents, on average, donating more than 4 percent of their income to charities.

Alex Daniels worked on that report for the Chronicle of Philanthropy. He attributes Idahoans' high rate of giving in-part to the state’s large Mormon population. About a quarter of Idahoans identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Giving money to a church counts as a charitable contribution in most studies of giving. A University of Pennsylvania study found that 88 percent of active Mormons report giving 10 percent of their income to the church. That’s higher than any other religion in America.

Mormon tithing is primarily used within the church for things like building construction and general operations. But the Pennsylvania study also found that Mormons give a relatively high amount to social causes in addition to tithing.

Using the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s interactive map you can see that the Idaho counties that give the most are in southeast Idaho. Those are also the counties with the highest Mormon populations.

Another reason for Idaho’s high rate of giving could be that it has a low average income. The Chronicle found that low-income people tend to donate a much higher percentage of what they make than wealthy people.

And the Great Recession caused low-income people to give even more. Daniels says that’s certainly true in Idaho.

“Idaho starts off with a higher-than-average rate of giving,” Daniels says. “But over the course of the recession and coming out of the downturn, residents in the state increased their giving, at a higher rate than most other places in the country.” 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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