Conservatives give more money, time, even blood to charity

Seen via Freakonomics blog, charity expert Arthur C. Brooks will be publishing a book shortly with some interesting conclusions (based primarily on analysis of 10 different databases):

The book’s basic findings are that conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notion that the government should engage in income redistribution are the most generous Americans, by any measure.

Conversely, secular liberals who believe fervently in government entitlement programs give far less to charity. They want everyone’s tax dollars to support charitable causes and are reluctant to write checks to those causes, even when governments don’t provide them with enough money.


“These are not the sort of conclusions I ever thought I would reach when I started looking at charitable giving in graduate school, 10 years ago,” he writes in the introduction. “I have to admit I probably would have hated what I have to say in this book.”

Still, he says it forcefully, pointing out that liberals give less than conservatives in every way imaginable, including volunteer hours and donated blood.

I would like to know how he determined individuals “reject the notion that the government should participate in income redistribution.” I am interested in what section of the “liberals,” “fervently” believe things. Also, what is a secular liberal, and why are we weighing secular liberals against religious conservatives? what about secular conservatives and religious liberals? How many liberals are in group, how many conservatives in each, and how are these determinations made?

Did he control for income?

Did he count contributions to a church? How did he count Mormon Tithes? How did he count Mormon Missionary work? Did he count Mormons? Who am I? Why am I here?

Don’t conservatives have more children and go to church more and hence participate in more community-based activities? Not saying I do much for my community as a liberal other than those two times I tried to help out after Katrina and they sent us to an empty shelter…

Queue up the synthisizer song from college football, bitches!

To make his point forcefully, Brooks admits he cut out a lot of qualifying information.

The second comment on that post is interesting:

Would be interesting to see more detail than the article gives. In graduate school, I worked at an institute that researched giving and volunteering, and learned that something like 50% of US charitable giving (according to the IRS) goes to churches;

Which of course is certainly in many cases actually giving to a charity in the true sense, but it goes a long way to explaining the huge disparity.

I’m also making the assumption they controlled for income levels – that is, the study was based on percentages of income, not set dollar amounts, etc. I’m sure it was, but something I’d want to confirm.

Is this a surprise to anyone? I observed this years ago.

In my experience, the typical religious conservative is all about the personal values. Personal responsibility, generosity, hard work, etc. A lot of their political ideas boil down to the idea that everyone should be encouraged to be virtuous and if everyone was then all of societies problems would disappear. The typica secular liberal I’ve known (and I include myself in this camp) have very jaded or low beliefs about basic human nature and hence conclude that government intervention is the only way to stave off mass misery caused by man mistreating his fellow man.

So when confronted by a social problem, the virtuous man tries to address it by charity and virtue while the jaded secual liberal goes out and votes for a tax and spend Democrat :)

Who knows, maybe that’s just a regional thing around where I live, but I’m not at all surprised by the conclusion that the religious conservatives give more.

I found it particularly interesting that blood donations were higher from conservatives. That gets past tithing, income levels, etc. Everyone can give blood, and there is no direct relationship of giving blood to supporting your church.

Not sure if this is the right place for it, but my post-Katrina experience really soured me on charities. The Red Cross of all places can’t figure out a way to put the two of us to work? They’re supposed to be the Best Charity Evar, right? I’m reading in the paper daily about Katrina refugees in school gyms all over Memphis, and the Red Cross is 0/2 in terms of sending us to a location with actual work to be done.

After that experience I am hesitant to give money to any charity. I tell myself I’d rather give my time so that I can be sure my donation isn’t being wasted, but I don’t really do much of that.

Here is what I think about your study.

To make his point forcefully, Brooks admits he cut out a lot of qualifying information.
Emphasis Added.

Here’s a longer article written a few years ago by Brooks:

Some interesting elaboration like this:

Note that neither political ideology nor income is responsible for much of the charitable differences between secular and religious people. For example, religious liberals are 19 points more likely than secular liberals to give to charity, while religious conservatives are 28 points more likely than secular conservatives to do so. In other words, religious conservatives (who give and volunteer at rates of 91 percent and 67 percent) appear to differ from secular liberals (who give and volunteer at rates of 72 percent and 52 percent) more due to religion than to politics.

This seems to be counter to the argument that this is about liberal versus conservative. It also highlights my point about giving to churches skewing the results. Plenty of churches do little besides support themselves with charity. Once you factor out churches I wonder what the numbers look like? Of course, that would be useless too, since you’d be discounting a lot of real donations.

Further down you can see this guy is clearly far from an unbiased reviewer:

ecent scholarship has demonstrated the disproportionate influence the secular left has over the modern Democratic Party. My research establishes a link between secular views and strikingly low levels of charitable giving and volunteering. While differences in charitable behavior are not particularly apparent between left and right per se, my findings do suggest that, if secularists play an increasing role in the direction of the Democratic Party, indifference (or even hostility) to private charity will probably rise within that party.

I can hear his axe whirring away! “disproportionate” influence? Feh.

The only people I have ever come across who are hostile to charity are die hard randist libertarians, which fit his secular category pretty well, but would hardly put themselves in with the democrats.

All those liberals are druggies with AIDS.

The more I read, the more it’s obvious his conclusions have a really basic logical problem.

If, for example, 30% of his lump “secular” group are secular because they are selfish bastards, and 70% are bleeding heart humanists who give a lot to charity… well, then you’d have similar results to what he is seeing, but you sure as hell couldn’t turn that around and make the accusations he is making about secular people in general.

I’ve been anti-Red Cross since the 9/11 stuff. Fuck them. Same with the Salvation Army back in the 80s (some personal stuff, not something in the news). I whore for Habitat now because I haven’t heard anything bad about them yet.

Habitat is an interesting case. As far as I can tell, there’s no ethical problems with it.

I’ve volunteered a couple days for Habitat and enjoyed doing them - working with your hands is a nice change when you spend most of your working time on the computer. And I’ve even had some discussions about bigger (computer-related) projects working with someone in their organization (they contacted me), that may yet go forward at some point.

But the downside is, I’m not convinced that the typical U.S. Habitat house building is a terribly productive use of dollar/goods/time donations by volunteers and supporters.

I think it feels nicer and more tangible than some other options (i.e. rewards the donor more), but is probably a less effective use of donor resources than, say a disease research charity (but donating to the latter often feels like throwing sand onto the beach).

Jimmy Carter is prominently connected in the public eye to Habitat, but his main charity (the Carter Center) focuses on disease fighting programs and world peace activities. As a place to donate cash (rather than time) to, I think the Carter Center is probably more productive.

That’s an interesting viewpoint. My experience has been the opposite, especially in the Seattle area. The local liberals tend to organize charities or benefits at the drop of a hat, and tend to preach peace, helping each other, and personal responsibility for becoming educated as the solutions to society’s problems. I’ve encountered secular conservatives that are similar to ones you describe, but the religious conservatives are judgmental, hypocritical, and only interested in the absolute minimum of generosity required by their church or their tax bracket.

emphasis added

I deleted the conservative/liberal split above because I didn’t want that to distract from my point:

While there’s nothing wrong with ‘benefits’ per-se, I think it’s too easy for people to turn them into a justification for socialite parties. Charity should not be primarily a nice label slapped across a series of expensive parties you would have had/attended otherwise.

Now now - some of us are just afraid of needles.

That and the thought of our blood being sold to vampires.

Damn undead.

My own anecdata: I’ve found northwest liberals (Washington, Oregon, NorCal) to be in a league of their own compared to those over the rest of the country. In a good way. They really practice what the preach is I guess what I mean to say.

Red Cross won’t let you give blood for lots of reasons. Most are temporary bans, but I’m banned for life for two reasons (any one which is enough to ban you on its own):

I was a dependent of a civilian military employee who spent a total time of 6 months on or associated with a military base from 1981 to 1991 in Turkey.

I spent a cumulative time of 5 years or more in any combination of countries in Europe.

Why? If a benefit or “socialite party” raises money for a good cause, who cares about the party? I mean, I can kind of see the inherent disagreeableness about rich people partying it up for the poor or whatever. But, your desired end should be actually doing good (raising lots of cash for orphans) rather than feeling good about your charitous good deeds.