Whether it's money to local synagogues or churches, food banks or animal shelters, metro Detroit residents are givers.
Those are among the findings of a six-month project released Monday by The Chronicle of Philanthropy researching "giving habits" of Americans. The research breaks down giving by zip code, town, county and state and is based on a year’s worth of IRS 1040 forms from households nationwide.
Researchers did a deep dive into various avenues of giving, including whether it was for religious or secular organizations and how much of one's household income was devoted to charity. For an apples-to-apples comparison, the data collected was on the percentage of post-tax income that was donated.
In the two zip codes that encompass Macomb Township, for instance, residents gave a total of between $12 million and $21.8 million in 2008, the year studied.
Area code 48044 gave the most and ranked 1,349th among the 28,725 zip codes listed across the country.
Those living in the 48042 area ranked 3,299th. In Macomb Township as a whole, residents give on average 3.3-3.4 percent of their income to charity.
“Generally speaking, Macomb County people are really generous,” said Shelly Penzien, president of the Macomb Charitable Foundation. “Even in tough economic times, they have reached out and continue to give so we are really happy. I know a lot of charities are struggling. Here in Macomb County, people are still generous at heart.”
Although MCF is based in Macomb Township, the nonprofit serves homeless school-age children and their families throughout the county. While the Christmas season always draws the most donations, Penzien said she has found the back-to-school season is just as important.
“We get calls every day from those needing help with school clothing and school supplies,” Penzien said. “This back-to-school time is very critical, especially for homeless kids who have nothing but want to go back to school looking like their peers and feeling good about themselves.”
Like all charitable organizations, monetary donations are always appreciated, but MCF also takes gift cards to stores like Kohl's or Meijer and actual school supplies.
Giving as a region
Metro Detroit fell in the top 4 percent nationally, ranking 14th overall among the 366 metro areas, giving about $1.8 billion in 2008.
And at 22nd, Michigan overall was about in the middle of the pack when it comes to charitable giving, donating about 4.5 percent of income.
Across the country, Utah, Washington D.C., and Mississippi gave the most - 10.2 percent to 7.2 percent, respectively. The bottom three states were Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, ranging from 2.8 percent to 2.5 percent, respectively.
Among other findings:
- Because of the current economy, charities are more strapped for cash than ever, which is fueling more charitable giving among neighbors.
- Those who live in more conservative, or "red states", are more generous than those in more liberal, or "blue states".
- Middle income people give more than the wealthy, especially if the wealthy live among the wealthy. In Macomb Township, those with incomes between $50,000 and $99,000 gave roughly 2 percent more than those with incomes of $200,000 or more.
Paul Piff, a social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, told NPR that during his years of research he also has found that higher income people in diverse economic areas give more than those who live in wealthy areas.
"The more wealth you have, the more focused on your own self and your own needs you become, and the less attuned to the needs of other people you also become," he told NPR's Pam Fessler.