Support the Café

Search our Site

The rich got richer while the poor gave more to charity

The rich got richer while the poor gave more to charity

Danielle Kurtzleben of Vox writes:

[D]uring the downturn and recovery, the poorest Americans upped their charitable giving. Meanwhile, the highest-income people gave less and less, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported this week.

The rich also give to charity differently than the poor: compared to lower-income Americans, the rich’s charitable giving places a far lower emphasis on helping their disadvantaged peers. When the poor and rich are (figuratively and literally) moving farther apart, an empathy gap naturally opens up between the upper and lower classes — after all, if I can’t see you, I’m less likely to help you.

Taken together, the trends paint a disturbing picture for the future of both the American economy and philanthropy: as the rich get richer and more removed from the daily lives of the poor, the bulk of charitable giving is also likely to become further removed from the needs of the poor.

Kurtzleben’s analysis is based on a widely reported study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a summary of which is available to non-subscribers. It states in part:

The Chronicle study found that Americans give, on average, about 3 percent of their income to charity, a figure that has not budged significantly for decades. However, that figure belies big differences in giving patterns between the rich and the poor.

The wealthiest Americans—those who earned $200,000 or more—reduced the share of income they gave to charity by 4.6 percent from 2006 to 2012. Meanwhile, Americans who earned less than $100,000 chipped in 4.5 percent more of their income during the same time period. Middle- and lower-income Americans increased the share of income they donated to charity, even as they earned less, on average, than they did six years earlier.

Kurtzleben writes that “the lowest-income Americans tend to give the majority of their money to churches and other religious organizations (which often use the money to help the community’s needy).” That assumption seems worth questioning. Few churches that I am aware of spend more than 10 percent of their budget on what is usually called “outreach” and most spend less.

The rich, she adds, “are more likely to give to arts organizations, as well as schools and health organizations — predominantly hospitals and disease-specific groups (think Susan G. Komen).”

So, where do churches fit into this equation? The Episcopal Church has a disproportionately well-educated and affluent membership. What do we have to say to those folks?


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Just an idea: how ’bout a procession (w/ Jesus sacramentally present) to “a squat, smoked-glass building that rises above the prairie on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas”, for an exorcism?

Or does the Church just not want to bother its Meek&Mild head? Be “neither cold nor hot”?

JC Fisher


And, in other news, Water is Wet.

But SRSLY, what is the Church doing here? I think we know about comforting the afflicted—are we (prophetically, Christ-like) afflicting the comfortable? The ones in our pews, the ones who aren’t, the ones who once were and left so they wouldn’t be bothered?

JC Fisher

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café