Giving Back: These Are the U.S. Cities Where People Donate the Most to Charity

In 2017, Americans gave more than $410 billion to charity – the first time in history giving crossed the $400 billion mark, according to Giving USA 2018. More than half of that total came from individual contributions, with the rest coming from a mix of bequests, giving by foundations, and corporate donations.

Just over half of all charitable donations are from households who earn more than $100,000, MarketWatch reported. But lower-income households give too, though donations from those with lower incomes or who are younger have dropped since the 2008 recession.

Giving also varies from place to place. SmartAsset looked at IRS data from 2015 to see where people gave the most. These U.S. cities came out on top.

The most generous cities in America

Places Where Americans Give the Most to Charity

Where Americans give the most to charity | SmartAsset

9. (Tie) Birmingham, Alabama: 28.5% of tax returns had charitable deductions. Residents gave 3.7% of their total income to charity.

9. (Tie) Raleigh, North Carolina: 32.7% of tax returns had donations. Residents gave 2.5% of their total income to charity.

8. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland: 38.2% of tax returns had donations. Residents gave 2.4% of their total income to charity.

7. Salt Lake City, Utah: 29.7% of returns had charitable donations. Residents gave 3.8% of their total income to charity.

6. Washington, D.C.: 39.9% of tax returns in the D.C. area had charitable donations. Residents gave 2.4% of their total income to charity.

5. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut: 39.3% of tax returns had charitable deductions. Residents gave 2.5% of their total income to charity.

4. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Georgia: 32.2% of returns had charitable deductions. Residents gave 3.5% of their total income to charity.

3. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah: 33% of returns had charitable deductions. Residents gave 4.7% of their total income to charity.

2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California: 34.1% of returns had charitable deductions. Residents gave 3.9% of their total income to charity.

1. Provo-Orem, Utah: 34.5% of returns had charitable deductions. Residents gave 6.8% of their total income to charity.

What do the most generous cities have in common? Some, like San Jose and Washington, D.C., are high-income metro areas. Three are in Utah, which has a high Mormon population, a group known for their higher rate of giving. Giving was also strong in the South.

The Smart Asset data only captures donations noted on people’s tax returns, which means any money donated by non-itemizers isn’t included. In 2013, only 30% of households filed an itemized return. However, 80% of all charitable dollars are included in the IRS’s data on itemized giving, according to the Philanthropy Roundtable.

Where do our charitable donations go?

salvation army red kettle

A Salvation Army Red Kettle | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Giving USA tracks giving to 10 different broad categories of recipients. This is where Americans’ charitable dollars went in 2017:

  • Individuals: 2% of total giving, or $7.87 billion. (According to Giving USA, most giving in this category is in the form of in-kind donations of medications to patients from pharmaceutical companies.)
  • Environment/animals: 3% of total giving, or $11.83 billion.
  • Arts, culture, and the humanities: 5% of total giving, or $19.51 billion.
  • International affairs: 6% of total giving, or $22.97 billion.
  • Public-society benefit: 7% of total giving, or $29.59 billion
  • Health: 9% of total giving, or $38.27 billion.
  • Foundations: 11% of total giving, or $45.89 billion.
  • Human services: 12% of total giving, or $50.06 billion.
  • Education: 14% of total giving, or $58.9 billion.
  • Religion: 31% of total giving, or $127.37 billion.

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