Philanthropy expert: Conservatives are more generous

Posted by: ST on November 16, 2006 at 10:37 pm

Wha??? You mean we’re not uncharitable greedmongers afterall? Via Newhouse:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks is about to become the darling of the religious right wing in America — and it’s making him nervous.

The child of academics, raised in a liberal household and educated in the liberal arts, Brooks has written a book that concludes religious conservatives donate far more money than secular liberals to all sorts of charitable activities, irrespective of income.

In the book, to be released later this month, he cites extensive data analysis to demonstrate that values advocated by conservatives — from church attendance and two-parent families to the Protestant work ethic and a distaste for government-funded social services — make conservatives more generous than liberals.

The book, titled “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism” (Basic Books, $26), is due for release Nov. 24.

When it comes to helping the needy, Brooks writes: “For too long, liberals have been claiming they are the most virtuous members of American society. Although they usually give less to charity, they have nevertheless lambasted conservatives for their callousness in the face of social injustice.”

Months before those words came off the press, news of his research reached the producers of ABC’s “20/20.” They filmed extensive interviews with Brooks to be aired next month in a one-hour special dealing with charity and philanthropy.

The fact that ABC will focus on the political, rather than cultural, aspects of his book frightens him less than the potential for a call from Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’ hard-hitting conservative commentator.

“I can say no if I want to,” he said.

The truth, Brooks says, is that if an interview with O’Reilly means furthering his message that America needs more charity — especially from those who call themselves liberal — he’d probably do it.

For the record, Brooks, 42, has been registered in the past as a Democrat, then a Republican, but now lists himself as independent, explaining, “I have no comfortable political home.”


Brooks is a behavioral economist by training who researches the relationship between what people do — aside from their paid work — why they do it, and its economic impact.

He’s a number cruncher who relied primarily on 10 databases assembled over the past decade, mostly from scientific surveys. The data are adjusted for variables such as age, gender, race and income to draw fine-point conclusions.

His Wall Street Journal pieces are researched, but a little light. His book, he says, is carefully documented to withstand the scrutiny of other academics, which he said he encourages.

The book’s basic findings are that conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notion that the government should engage in income redistribution are the most generous Americans, by any measure.

Conversely, secular liberals who believe fervently in government entitlement programs give far less to charity. They want everyone’s tax dollars to support charitable causes and are reluctant to write checks to those causes, even when governments don’t provide them with enough money.

Such an attitude, he writes, not only shortchanges the nonprofits but also diminishes the positive fallout of giving, including personal health, wealth and happiness for the donor and overall economic growth. All of this, he said, he backs up with statistical analysis.

“These are not the sort of conclusions I ever thought I would reach when I started looking at charitable giving in graduate school, 10 years ago,” he writes in the introduction. “I have to admit I probably would have hated what I have to say in this book.”

Still, he says it forcefully, pointing out that liberals give less than conservatives in every way imaginable, including volunteer hours and donated blood.

In an interview, Brooks says he recognizes the need for government entitlement programs, such as welfare. But in the book he finds fault with all sorts of government social spending, including entitlements.

Repeatedly he cites and disputes a line from a Ralph Nader speech to the NAACP in 2000: “A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity.”

Leslie Lenkowsky, professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, has not read Brooks’ book but is familiar with his research and findings. He says Brooks’ impact could be as great as that of Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam, who wrote the 2000 best-seller “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” setting off a national discussion about the decline of participation in group activities and its effect on society.

Harvey Mansfield, professor of government at Harvard University and 2004 recipient of the National Humanities Medal, does not know Brooks personally but has read the book.

“His main finding is quite startling, that the people who talk the most about caring actually fork over the least,” he said. “But beyond this finding I thought his analysis was extremely good, especially for an economist. He thinks very well about the reason for this and reflects about politics and morals in a way most economists do their best to avoid.”

Heheh. Let the lefty outrage commence! ;)

Hat tip: Jaime

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  • 20 Responses to “Philanthropy expert: Conservatives are more generous”


    1. Marshall Art says:

      This is not in the least bit surprising news. Considering liberals spend their time insisting the wealthy (however they’re defining it these days) give more, it’s not a shock to hear they aren’t giving themselves. As perpetual victims, it’s always someone else’s duty to help out. Also, the conservative person of faith understands that HE is called to help the needy. He is NOT called to force others to do it.

    2. Tom TB says:

      The left has always been extremely generous to all kinds of causes, and always with other people’s money.

    3. camojack says:

      Not surprising, no. My beliefs cause me to tithe; on top of that I give to quite a few charitable organizations.

      Of course, I do deduct all that from my income, for tax purposes…

    4. Severian says:

      Liberals seem to be most generous when it comes to giving away other people’s money, that’s the entire focus of socialism and their “tax the evil rich” philosophy. We saw this in effect during the stem cell debates, it doesn’t matter that embryonic stem cells are ethically problematic and have shown serious problems that prevent more private investment, people should be forced to pay for the research thru tax dollars because we care more than you do. :-w

    5. Lorica says:

      I was just remembering when Al Gore was Veep, and running for President. This man’s charitable giving was under a 1000.00 if I remember correctly. Now he lives in a 2.5 million dollar country estate, and flys private jets. But in order to win the war on poverty he wants our tax dollars. Which by the way, if our troops are only given 4 years to win the war in Iraq, then shouldn’t we have pulled out of the war on poverty in the 1950s??? =)) – Lorica

    6. Jim M says:

      Lorica, The war on poverty started in the 60s with LBJ up until that point you actually had to work to pay the rent and for the food you consumed. Income tax rates before the war on poverty was around 2 to 5% that is one reason it only took one income for the family. Now depending on your income (Tax Bracket) it takes two working for the same income (As pre war on poverty) because one income goes to just pay the taxes.

    7. Beth says:

      I’m judging by purely anecdotal evidence, but this doesn’t surprise me. I know (and work with) a lot of liberals. Oddly enough, the liberal guys I work with are all the sort of guys who will order a steak sandwich that costs $5.75 and want their change back on the $6.00. They’ve never heard of tax and tip for the delivery guy. We have one guy — no joke — who will collect money for pizza and try to pocket the tip money for himself. Ridiculous. We actually have to remind him that we’re handing him extra money to give to the delivery guy!

      A good friend of mine (who is, unfortunately, one of the most liberal people I know) is also frugal to a fault. Though she and her husband (they don’t have kids) make more than $125,000 a year combined (they’re not private about salaries), she loves to say that people like them just don’t have a chance in “Bush’s America!!”

      From what I can gather, the liberal motto seems to be: The rest of you should give more!!!

    8. Baklava says:

      I’m sorry Jim, there were many tax rates in the 60’s (which have been subsequently collapsed down to a lot less tax brackets) but the top marginal rate was 91% and Kennedy helped bring that down to 70% to help spur the economy back then.

      The funny thing about the war on poverty is we’ve spent 4 trillion dollars for the poor since then and it won’t be won. We’ve moved from 14.7% poverty rate in 1966 to a 13.3% poverty rate in 1997 (5th year of Clinton) to a 12.6% poverty rate in 2005 (5th year of Bush).

      Trends of poverty are interesting:

      In the past, the poverty rate and number of people in poverty have gone up during and slightly after a recession.

      Interesting table
      Poverty level for 2005 (5th year of Bush) is $15,577 for a family of 3 and $26,683 for a family of 6

      Poverty level for 1997 (5th year of Clinton) is $12,802 for a family of 3 and $21,886 for a family of 6

    9. Lorica says:

      I’m sorry, I always like to give Eisenhowswer credit for beginning poverty assistance. It wasn’t until LBJ was searching for a “legacy” that he fell upon the war on poverty. Then went to the Republcans to help him expand poverty assistance. If we only knew then, what we know now. So basically the Dem screwed up what was a perfectly good program. Maybe. =)) – Lorica

      The Department of Health and Human Services was created in 1953, under President Dwight Eisenhowser. This department touches the lives of more Americans than any other federal agency, serving people as infants to elderly citizens. The Department of Health and Human Services advises the President on health, welfare, and income security plans, policies, and programs of the federal government.


      He expanded its programs and rolled them into a new cabinet level agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, while extending benefits to an additional 10 million more workers.


    10. arcman says:

      This is not surprising considering many conservatives attend church regularly, and those of us who don’t, believe in the power of charity. The left, think that the government should be a nanny, so they feel like they contribute through their tax money.

    11. Steve Skubinna says:

      But liberals care more than we do! Therefore they are morally far superior.

    12. Baklava says:

      They care about attacking and accusing others of not caring.

    13. benning says:

      Steve is right! They care, thus we don’t. Or not enough. I suppose we assuage our uncaring guilt by giving.;)

    14. Marshall Art says:

      “Though she and her husband make more than $125,000 a year combined, she loves to say that people like them just don’t have a chance in “Bush’s America!!”

      Boy. I’d love for my household to have no chance like that.

    15. Phil says:

      This is interesting what Websters Dictionary says about the word “Stingy”

      1 : not generous or liberal

      Even Websters Dictionary supports what Arthur C. Brooks found out. =))=))=))=))

    16. Phil says:

      I can’t beleive that I put that in there, I must have been so darn slant eyed tired.

      It was supposed to say Doesn’t support Arthur C. Brooks.

      Snooze a fella looses.