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Highly religious Utah ranked as 'Most Charitable State' in 2021

Highly religious Utah ranked as 'Most Charitable State' in 2021

Unsplash/Joel Muniz

A new study from WalletHub shows that Utah, one of the most religious states in the nation, is the most charitable state in the U.S., with residents there giving the highest share of their income to charity.

The personal finance website released its list of the “Most Charitable States for 2021” on Monday.

Overall, Utah was ranked as the most charitable state in the U.S. as it was the state with the highest share of its population that donated money and also was tied with Minnesota for the highest volunteer rate.

Utah was also identified as the state where residents donated the highest share of their income to charity.

Utah’s ranking on the top of the list comes as Gallup data from 2015 found that the Beehive State has the highest rate of religious attendance in the country, with 51% of residents attending church services at least once a week.

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Arkansas and Georgia, two other states where residents donated a higher share of their income to charity, also had higher than average religious attendance rates, 45% and 39%, respectively.

On the other hand, most of the states with the lowest percentage of donated income have much lower rates of weekly religious attendance. 

Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Alaska, which took four of the bottom five spots, all have weekly church attendance rates lower than 30%, according to the Gallup study. 

Of the 50 states, West Virginia residents gave the lowest share of their income to charity. While 34% of West Virginians attend church weekly, the state has one of the lowest median household incomes in the country, according to the World Population Review.

Share of donated income to charity was just one of many factors that the WalletHub study looked at when ranking the most and least charitable states.

Other variables analyzed included volunteer rates, volunteer hours per capita, the share of the population who donated time, the share of the population that collected and distributed food and the number of charities per capita.

Taking these factors into account, Minnesota, Maryland, Oregon and Ohio rounded out the top five most charitable states.

Arizona was ranked as the least charitable state, with New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi and Rhode Island joining the Grand Canyon State in the bottom five.

With the exception of Arizona and Rhode Island, the least charitable states had among the lowest median household incomes in the country.

While residents of Utah and other more religious states gave the highest amount of their income to charity, the WalletHub study found that states Gallup deemed to have less religious attendance had a much higher share of charities per capita.

Vermont, where just 17% of residents attend church weekly, had the highest number of charities per capita, followed by Montana, Alaska, Massachusetts and Maine. None of those states had weekly church attendance rates higher than 27%, according to Gallup. 

On the other hand, most of the states that had the fewest number of charities per capita had high church attendance rates.

Utah had the second-fewest number of charities per capita while the states of Mississippi and Texas were also in the bottom five. Nevada, where 27% of residents attend church weekly, had the fewest number of charities per capita.

Earlier studies have found a correlation between charitable giving and religiosity.

Last year, a report released by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable found a relationship between the decline of religious attendance in the U.S. and a drop-off in charitable giving, The author of that report noted that "attending services is correlated with giving to religious organizations" but "also correlated with giving to secular groups."

Over the years, reports from the Chronicle of Philanthropy have also noted a link between charitable giving and religious faith. Reports published in 2012 and 2014 found that the most religious states had the highest rates of charitable giving.

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