Are Americans Growing Less Charitable?

Credit: CanadaHelps

Several factors have made giving to the needy more challenging.

Are we giving less of ourselves freely? Unfortunately, the answer is “yes,” but the economy and a changing culture explain some of the decline.

About 20 million fewer households now donate to charities, compared with two decades ago. According to a study from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable, the portion of US adults who give to charity dropped significantly from 2000 to 2016. In 2000, 66% of American adults donated money to charities, but by 2016 that figure dropped to 53%.

The reasons for this decline in charitable donations are several, but the most significant figure is a decline in religion. The study cites a decline in attending religious services and a decline in the number of Americans who identify with a religion. This is because traditionally most charity in the US has gone to religious organizations. That fact is changing now as well, however, as Americans find other outlets for charitable giving. Religious organizations still received the largest portion of charitable donations in 2018 at 29%.

Another significant factor in the decline of charity is the uneven recovery from the Great Recession. The study’s authors found that households led by individuals with less than a high school education and under $50,000 in total household assets reduced the portion of their income dedicated to charity following the recession. Lastly, millennials are far less likely to donate their money. The study found that this is because they “had the misfortune of entering the workforce during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

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