Thursday, November 30, 2006

Heart and Money, Part 3

On Wednesday Nov. 29, ABC's 20/20 aired an incredibly episode that surprised me and uplifted me. The news article really blew some myths out of the water. Below are some excerpts from two ABC news story that made up the broadcast.
Are Americans Cheap? Or Charitable? by John Stossel and Gena Binkley
Do you give? Or are you cheap? I keep hearing that "Americans are cheap."

"Yes," they say. Former President Carter recently said the rich states "don't give a damn" about people in poor countries. U2 singer Bono says, "It's the crumbs off our tables that we offer these countries."

Crumbs because many other countries, such as Norway, Portugal and Japan, give a larger share of their wealth to needy countries. The United States gave out $20 billion in foreign aid last year, but as a percentage of our wealth, we rank 21st out of the 22 major donor countries.

Actress Angelina Jolie is horrified by it. "It's disgusting. It really is disgusting," she said. "I think most American people, you know, really do think we give more. And I know that they would if they could understand how little they give and how much more we can afford to give, absolutely, without even noticing it."

But wait a second. … When talking aid, why just talk about what the government gives? America is anything but cheap.

Carol Adelman at the Hudson Institute has studied how much Americans give privately in foreign aid. She says it's a myth that Americans are stingy. Adelman published her findings in the institute's "Index of Global Philanthropy," which found that while the U.S. government gave about $20 billion in foreign aid in 2004, privately, Americans gave $24.2 billion.

After the tsunami two years ago, the U.S. government pledged approximately $900 million to relief efforts, but American individuals gave $2 billion in food, clothing and cash.

The fact that most of America's charitable gifts come from volunteers, not government, demonstrates that Americans are different from people in every other country. "No other country comes close," said Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. Brooks studies charitable giving and has a new book, "Who Really Cares: America's Charity Divide."

"Americans per capita individually give about three and a half times more money per year, than the French per capita. … Seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians."

"The fact is, that Americans give on a different scale than anybody else in the world."

Thank goodness we do because charity does it better. I notice the difference on my way to work because in my neighborhood, the men in blue — that's what they call themselves — clean the streets.

They're not volunteers. It turns out that they're former street people. … Ex-alcoholics and drug addicts. The Doe Fund, a private charity, puts them to work while they try to teach them to be responsible and to stay clean. One year after entering the program, most of the men in blue are drug-free and employed. That's twice the success rate of other shelters in the city.

Regardless of what our government does, Americans are anything but cheap. Americans gave $260 billion away in charity last year — that's about $900 per person.

Who Gives and Who Doesn't? by John Stossel and Kristina Kendall
But just who is doing the giving? Three quarters of American families donate to charity, giving $1,800 each, on average. Of course, if three quarters give, that means that one quarter don't give at all. So what distinguishes those who give from those who don't?

We assume the rich give more than the middle class, the middle class more than the poor. I've heard liberals care more about the less fortunate, so we assume they give more than conservatives do. Are these assumptions truth, or myth?

It turns out that this idea that liberals give more…is a myth. Arthur Brooks, the author of "Who Really Cares," says that "when you look at the data, it turns out the conservatives give about 30 percent more." He adds, "And incidentally, conservative-headed families make slightly less money."

And he says the differences in giving goes beyond money, pointing out that conservatives are 18 percent more likely to donate blood. He says this difference is not about politics, but about the different way conservatives and liberals view government.

"You find that people who believe it's the government's job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away," Brooks says. In fact, people who disagree with the statement, "The government has a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves," are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.

Rich vs. Poor
The second myth is that the people with the most money are the most generous. But while the rich do give more in overall dollars, according to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, people at the lower end of the income scale give almost 30 percent more of their income.

Many researchers told us lower income people give more because they think they are more likely to need charity or know someone who needs charity.

Workers at the meat packing plant where Lau works make on average around $35,000, yet the Sioux Falls United Way says it gets more contributions of over $500 from employees here than anywhere else.

And what about the middle class? Well, while middle-income Americans are generous compared to people in other countries, compared to the rich and the working poor, they give less. "The two most generous groups in America are the rich and the working poor," says Brooks. "The middle class give the least."

The Church Connection
Finally, the single biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable is their religious participation.

Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money: four times as much. And Arthur Brooks told me that giving goes beyond their own religious organization: "Actually, the truth is that they're giving to more than their churches," he says. "The religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly non-religious charities."

The article describes a test in San Franscisco and Sioux Falls. The article ends teasing you to watch the show to see how the test turned out. Well, Sioux Falls blew away San Francisco in charitable giving.

There some really good details and anecdotes in the articles, I hope you read them. I was pleasantly surprised and my spirit boosted.

What questions and comments do these articles raise from you dear readers?


JMG said...

I'm not surprised that the middle class give the least. The middle class it seems, much more than the upper income or low income classes, are caught up in consumer spending and debt. Most advertising is aimed at the middle class who are conditioned to believe that in order to be considered successful, we must have certain things. And in order to obtain those things, they go into debt and are consequently unable to give because of all the credit card payments. The middle class mentality is "when we are more financially stable (when we get out of debt) we'll give more." The problem is that they don't get out of debt. It's a vicious cycle.

Of course I'm stereotyping to a degree, but I think that this is a pretty good hypothesis.

Tony Arnold said...

I agree JMG. One thing that totally surprised however, because I let myself be duped by the media and celebrity hype, is that America is not doing its share and that conservatives don't do their part.

And just the opposite is true. I knew that I was never getting the true story, but the consistent negative slant did affect my view, more than I realized until I say the stats.

People just love to use partial facts to make their point rather than let their point be made by a total of the facts.

Bet you never see that in your students essay. They pick a view and then work to prove that view, rather than pick an issue and try to see which side the facts actually fall on.

Like JB, I don't think I am going to miss reading the biased news everyday. I may find giving up my newspaper to be a great blessing.


JMG said...

Nooo. My students neeeevvveeer do that!

That's why I get my news from the internet. I read news on the internet that I don't hear on TV for another two weeks.

Justin said...

This kinda stuff drives me crazy.

Its why (if and when I ever vote again) I will vote for Libertarians. The state is not the church and it is not God, but many "progressives" view it that way. You hear moaning and gnashing of teeth if the majority of tax cuts go to the rich, but no one tells you that the rich are paying nearly all of the taxes.

If there's no relationship in giving aid, it does little more than produce dependents. you make people slaves to a check in the mail from the almighty government. Wouldn't it be better if the church did the job that the government has taken up. Wouldn't it be great if Jesus was our Lord and not the budget?

jettybetty said...

I agree with JMG--the middle class is advertising's main target--and they are doing a great job--it's easy to get caught up in the vicious cycle! Too easy!

=-) Tony! I will be interested to see how you do without the paper--I thought I would never be able to give mine up--and I don't miss it a bit!

I thought the most encouraging part of the article you posted was--religious people do give the most--even to non-church things--I believe that's the way it should be--but it's kind of nice it is--and that the media even said as much.

God continues to speak to me on material wealth--I have so much to learn!

Malia said...

We watched the 20/20 special. I've always appreciated John Stossel and his quest de-bunk myths. This was a great one. One thing that was interesting to think about was "the giving list". And how rich people nowadays are interested in seeing where they fall in the ranks of charitable giving as opposed to where they fall in the ranks of whose the richest. Who knew Ted Turner could come up with such magnanimous idea!

Tony Arnold said...

I noticed that too Malia.

I have to admit it bothered me a little that many might give more out of selfish, competitive motives rather than from the heart, but then again, God works in mysterious and His ways are not my ways.


Matt said...

I heard that if you take the 50 states and order them by wealth and then flip that list you get the order of states by how much they give = the poorest states give more as a % than the wealthy ones. Kind of sad really.

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

thanks for the stossel(?) selections. I know I need to be two things: 1) simpler and 2) more generous with my "stuff."

Bobby Valentine