During a recession, there is much less money in circulation than there was before. That's what a shrinking economy means. Fewer people have jobs. People spend less. Governments have revenue shortfalls. But non-profit organizations, everything from local churches (which depend entirely on giving) to big universities (which have large endowments to carry them), also suffer a decrease in contributions.
These circumstances make it all the more useful to learn what three sociologists from Rice and Notre Dame universities have discovered regarding American giving patterns, particularly among churchgoers. In Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money (Oxford UP, 2008), Michael O. Emerson (sociology professor at Rice University), Christian Smith (sociology professor at the University of Notre Dame), and Patricia Snell (Notre Dame religion and sociology researcher) have that, "When it comes to sharing their money, most contemporary American Christians are remarkably ungenerous."
Fifty percent of American who do not attend church give nothing to charity.Compare these two figures: "Regular churchgoers give two percent" and "Twenty-three percent of active Protestant church attenders give ten percent or more." This appears to indicate a significant difference between Protestant and Catholic giving. I suspect that most of the giving in those Protestant churches is from Evangelicals, including Evangelicals in the old mainline churches.
Twenty percent of American Christians give nothing to charity.
Regular churchgoers give two percent.
Nine percent of self-identified Christians give ten percent or more of their after-tax income to charity.
Twenty-three percent of active Protestant church attenders give ten percent or more.
As real income have risen in the last one hundred years, giving as a percentage of income has declined.
The poor are more generous in their giving than the rich.
Clearly, there are many people who simply will not give to charity, regardless of how much money they have. I recall that when Al Gore's tax statements were released during the 2000 campaign, we discovered that he gave a miniscule amount to charity out of his ample income. Liberals, it seems, don't believe in private giving. They believe in establishing generous though inefficient and generally ineffective government programs. People with lower incomes are more generous in their giving, as these reports confirm.
The last fact calls to mind the 2006 book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, by Arthur C. Brooks, the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and Whitman School of Management, and president of the American Enterprise Institute.