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Emmaus Residents Less Generous, Report says

Study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy finds Emmaus area households give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than the national median.

People who live in the Emmaus area aren’t the cheapest of cheapskates but we’re less generous than many of our fellow Americans – for example, those in Salt Lake City, Utah.

That’s according to a new report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which looked at the percentage of discretionary income Americans contributed to charity in 2008.

That year, the typical Emmaus area household gave 3.5 percent of their income to charity, with the median amount of contributions per household at $2,008. That compared with a national median contribution of 4.7 percent.

The Chronicle broke down communities by zip code and looked at the contributions of households in the 18049 zip code that made more than $50,000 a year. The Chronicle counted as discretionary income what taxpayers had left after they paid taxes and paid for food, housing and other essentials.

Emmaus area’s median discretionary income was $57,400, according to the Chronicle’s interactive report. The area’s total charitable contributions in 2008 were $8.3 million, which meant it ranked 4,825 out of 28,725 communities. But as a measure of how much residents gave as a percentage of their income compared to the rest of the U.S., our community ranks 19,029 out of 28,725. 

Nationally, the average American household gives 4.7 percent of their median discretionary income of $54,783. The median contribution per American household was $2,564 in 2008.

Pennsylvania as a whole gave $4.7 billion to charity that year, which meant it ranked seventh out of 50 states and Washington, D.C. in total amount given.

But Pennsylvanians had a median contribution of $2,181 out of discretionary income of $55,661 which put it at 40th out of 51. The median amount Pennsylvanians gave was 4.1 percent of their descretionary income.  

The Chronicle found other interesting trends. States with large  populations of religious people generally give more of their income than those without. “Two of the top nine states – Utah and Idaho – have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church,” a story on the Chronicle website noted. Salt Lake City households, for example, give a median of 9 percent of their discretionary income.  All the other states in the top nine are in the Bible Belt.

But, the Chronicle noted, “when religious giving isn’t counted, the geography of giving is very different. Some states in the Northeast jump into the top 10 when secular gifts alone are counted. New York would vault from No. 18 to No. 2, and Pennsylvania would climb from No. 40 to No. 4.”

Red states give more than blue states, the group said. “The eight states where residents gave the highest share of income to charity went for John McCain in 2008,” the story said. “The seven-lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.” Red states are Republican dominated and blue states are Democratic dominated.

Here are a few other interesting findings:

-- Those in the middle class give a much larger share of their income to charity – 7.6 percent for Americans earning $50,000-$75,000 – than the wealthy. Americans making more than $100,000 give an average of 4.2 percent.

-- Wealthy people who live in places surrounded by other rich people give less of a share of their incomes than well-off Americans in diverse communities.

-- Residents from New England states like New Hampshire and Maine gave the smallest share of their discretionary income and those in Southern states gave the most. 

-- Tax credits for giving make a big difference in how much people give. Arizona has special tax benefits for those who donate and charities are receiving more than $100 million each year. 

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