Friday, May 13, 2011

Who gives more?

Last week I had a progressive friend bring up Arthur Brooks book Who Really Cares to show that conservatives actually give more than liberals. This work had a lot of coverage with people from the left and right sides of the aisle simply accepting Brooks implications that conservatives give more than liberals and that it's because of the inherent difference in ideologies. I wanted to see the details of his stats because I wasn't buying it at face value. A little digging brought up this important information:

Conservatives don't give more than Liberals

...well, at least that's not how it should be described. It's actually a divide between religious people and non-religious. Currently the right is comprised of more religious people than the left, so for that reason alone conservatives give more than liberals. Brooks came clean about this in a long article with Heritage Foundation.  Brooks himself said:
Is that because of politics? The answer is no. I have found no evidence that conservatives are inherently more generous than liberals.
He probably should have told his publicist this.

Here are a few of the highlights from the Heritage article:

First, religious conservatives and religious liberals give the same amount. While secular liberals give less, secular conservatives give much less than secular liberals.

In the article Brooks said:
What you find is that the above-average-giving states largely are the conservative states in America today. As a matter of fact, of the 25 states that are above average in charitable giving, 24 supported Bush in 2004. There was one that supported Kerry which was also above average in charitable giving, and that’s Maryland.
    Is that because of politics? The answer is no. I have found no evidence that conservatives are inherently more generous than liberals. Religious conservatives and religious liberals give at largely the same rates and the same amounts. However, there are more than three times as many religious conservatives than religious liberals in America today.
    Furthermore, religious conservatives are proliferating; they are having more babies, and more people are joining their party. Religious liberals are shrinking as a group. That is to say, while there is no virtue gap between religious liberals and religious conservatives, there is a numbers gap between them. The lowest-giving groups are secular liberals and secular conservatives—as a matter of fact, secular conservatives are at the very bottom. (See Table 5.) Secular liberals are already the largest group of liberals out there, and there is evidence that liberals are secularizing even more. Conservatives are also becoming more religious. This increase in dynamics is driving the political differences in charity today."

Also interesting, among secular people, the frequency with which they attended church as a child had an effect on the amount of their charitable donations as an adult:

About this Brooks said:
I want to take a group of adults that is completely secular, which is to say they never attend religious services or have no religion at all. I am going to split them in half: Half of them went to church when they were kids, and half of them did not go to church when they were kids.
    How much does that explain their giving? The answer is: a lot. The percentage of secularist adults who donate to charity was 47 percent if they went to church every week as kids, and it was 26 percent if they didn’t go as kids. What you find is, the more you go to church as a child, the more you give as an adult, notwithstanding your actual religious behaviors as an adult—which is evidence that people learn, that they get wired for charity when they practice religion as a child.

So if you ever hear this book cited as evidence about one political ideology being better than another, you can correct them and say it only shows the effect of religion on charitable donations. 

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