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Do Lamorinda Residents Give Enough to Charity?

Berkeley residents making between $50k and $100k a year give twice as much as people with annual incomes over $100k, according to a new study of tax returns. How does Lamorinda stack up?

How much is your area giving to charities? A new national study details the generosity in America's communities.

Compared to other parts of the East Bay, Berkeley residents are really generous when it comes to charitable giving, according to a study released Monday by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The median chartiable contribution in 2008 from Berkeley was $2,762, or 4.7 percent of a median discretionary income of $59,224. 

But for Berkeleyites making between $50k and $99,999 the average contribution was $1,930, or 11 percent of an an average discretionary income of $17,615 

Berkeley Income Levels Percent of Income Given Average Contribution Average Discretionary Income Total Returns $50k-$99,999 11 percent  $1,930 $17,615 6,517 $100k-$199,999 4.4 percent  $2,961 $68,077 6,684 $200k and up 5.1 percent $14,594 $284,646 4,291

The study was based on Internal Revenue Service records of Americans who itemized deductions. It gives ZIP-code level detail about the percentage of discretionary income that people gave to charity.

Percent of income given Median Contribution Median Discretionary Income Total returns Albany 3.5 percent $1,947 $56,123 3,181 Alameda 3.6 percent $2,006 $55,824 12,386 Benicia 3.3 percent  $2,126 $64,985 6,012 Berkeley 4.7 percent $2,762 $59,224 17,672 Concord 3.9 percent $1,944 $50,348 18,367 El Cerrito 3.9 percent $2,207 $56,585 4,592 Hercules 4.1 percent $2,052 $50,634 5,310 Lafayette 3.8 percent  $5,660 $149,773 7,079 Martinez 3.6 percent $1,892 $53,282 9,205 Moraga 3.9 percent $4,596 $116,498 4,045 Orinda 5.0 percent  $9,226 $184,227 5,271 Pleasant Hill 3.4 percent $1,968 $58,547 6,922 Walnut Creek 4.2 percent $2,658 $63,456 19,611

The study found:

  • States that voted Republican in the last presidential election are far more likely to be generous to charities than those that voted Democratic. The top eight states in giving preferred John McCain over Barack Obama.
  • Utah was the No. 1 state in giving at 10.6 percent, with Salt Lake City as the most giving city. By contrast, residents in Massachusetts and three other New England states give less than 3 percent. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the least-generous states.
  • Lower-income people give a far bigger share of their income to charities than the wealthy.
  • Rich people who live in areas with mostly wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people in economically diverse areas.
  • Regions that are deeply religious give more than those that are not. Two of the top 10 states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormons, who tithe more consistently than other churches. The other states in the top 10 are all in the so-called Bible Belt.

The Chronicle website also features an interactive map looking at how America gives.

Mark Roberts August 21, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Nice to see that Lamorindans (and esp. Orindans) are quite generous. I had a feeling my wife and I weren't alone in feeling good about supporting causes, events and programs that are important to us.
Chris Nicholson August 21, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I wish we could see stats with and without church-related giving. I think there is a fundamental and critical difference between (i) funding capital and operating expenses for your church (which does not seem to me to be "charitable giving") and (ii) giving money to help the less fortunate (whether "via" church programs or secular organizations). Frankly, I'm not sure that donations to support local schools have the same positive karma points as "help the needy" giving (doesn't mean such "gifts" aren't advisable, I just don't personally count that as "charity" in the same way as giving (literal) seed money to a struggling farmer in Kenya (for example)). Also, although percentages of income are interesting, the truly wealthy often give in ways that don't show up on income tax forms (e.g., charitable estate planning). The non wealthy generally die with few assets, and thus their estates don't donate much. Finally, as a general matter, whatever Berkeley is doing differently, I'm quite sure it is NOT worthy of emulation.
lamorinda mom August 22, 2012 at 03:02 AM
We are "encouraged" to donate $1000 per child to supplement the money the State of CA provides in the Lafayette public school system. So if I have 2 children and give to my church, the $5,660 figure would include the above. But judging by my primary circle, people try to be generous as many of us support Bud MacKenzie's Trust in Education, SmileTrain, Books for Barrios, JCC and other local charities.
Jason Schmidt August 22, 2012 at 09:31 PM
I think the reason Berkeley people give so much is they are justifiably afraid they will be unable to reach the afterlife, and are trying to make themselves better candidates. As the scripture says, "It is easier for a Berkeley resident to pass through the Eye of the Needle than to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, because of their omnipresent traffic barriers."
KFrances August 23, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Does income tax to social programs count? or income tax to fund bogus climate change count? How about income tax to rebuild the war torn areas we've left devastated? If 50 % of US people pay income tax, and 50% don't...that's interesting too... because Income Tax to the UN is not how I want to spend my charitable giving, but I'm forced to give it to the World Bank for their social engineering programs: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jun/4/taxation-goes-global/: even though they themselves don't: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2012/05/30/imfs-christine-lagarde-i-dont-pay-taxes-but-you-should/ Orinda is in the bottom five schools in the entire state of CA for per capita spending per student from the state, and so that could explain the higher 'charitable' giving too. Trying to keep the kids afloat. Funny, when I was in college, and had to work 2 jobs, I didn't have time to march with La Raza because my financial aid check was 'late' - because I never expected financial aid - even though my parents could have used it - oh except they were married etc.. Donate to the organizations you believe in. I give money to children's causes.
Ian Lipnicky (still a SportsFan) August 23, 2012 at 10:50 PM
My parents didn't need financial aid when I went to college. They had the number of children they could afford to support.
KFrances August 24, 2012 at 05:52 AM
Yes, I was fortunate too...my parent's were responsible and always made the right difficult decisions and sacrificed. They never took a thing, only gave.

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