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Who Are the Most Generous Among Us in San Rafael?

While San Rafael ranks high nationally for its charitable giving, the less money people have, the more of it they give to charity than their wealthier neighbors, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

San Rafael ranks 336th among 11,522 cities nationwide in charitable contributions, but the least wealthy local residents give the most by far, according to a new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The six-month-long study of data and on-the-ground reporting, “How America Gives,” ranked the generosity of the 50 states and every zip code in America. Based on the most recent available Internal Revenue Service records of Americans who itemized their deductions, the study examines taxpayers who earned $50,000 or more in 2008.

The data for San Rafael, which includes the 94901 and the 94903 zip codes, shows that residents as a whole contributed $55.7 million. The average contribution was $2,600 and average discretionary income of $63,620. The percent of income given was 4.1 percent.

Note: The study defined discretionary income as adjusted gross income minus all regular expenses including all taxes, living expenses and housing costs.

By income level, here’s how San Rafael residents gave:

  • $50,000 - $99,999. Percent of income given: 9.6 percent; average contribution: $1,668; average discretionary income: $17,310; number of tax returns: 4,327.
  • $100,000 - $199,999. Percent of income given: 3.9 percent; average contribution: $2,772; average discretionary income: $71,132; number of tax returns: 4,839.
  • $200,000 and up. Percent of income given: 3.7 percent; average contribution: $11,304; average discretionary income: $306,903; number of tax returns: 3,104.

The findings in San Rafael that the least wealthy gave the highest percentage of their gross income was on par with national data. According to the study, middle-class Amer­i­cans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities than the rich, with households earning $50,000 to $75,000 giving an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.

The study found that wealthy people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities. When people making more than $200,000 a year account for more than 40 percent of the taxpayers in a zip code, the wealthy residents give an average of 2.8 percent of discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for all itemizers earning $200,000 or more.

Compared to all of Marin, San Rafael gave less money and less percentage of discretionary income, the study found. The median contribution among Marin residents was $2,769, while the median income was $56,585, for a 4.9 percent of income given. Total contributions for the 94901 zip code, which makes up mostly downtown, were $31.1 million. North San Rafael, with the 94903 zip code, gave a total of $24.6 million in contributions.

In California as a whole, the median contribution was $2,396 on $54,030 of discretionary income for a 4.4 percent of income given.

Nationally, those making more than $50,000 a year donated a median of 4.7 percent of their discretionary income to charitable causes. Altogether, they provided $135 billion to charity, nearly two-thirds of the $214 billion donated by all individuals in 2008, according to “Giving USA,” the benchmark of giving patterns. (See how The Chronicle conducted the study.)

Among the other major findings of the study:

  • The most generous residents are in the Deep South.
  • The stingiest are in New England states.
  • Residents in middle-class neighborhoods give a higher percentage of their discretionary income annually than do residents in affluent neighborhoods.
  • Nonprofits and charities are pressured s government budgets shrink, and more individuals nationwide are digging deeper into their own pockets to help their neighbors.
  • Utah is the most generous state, while New Hampshire is the stingiest.
  • Salt Lake City tops the cities list – largely a sign of the power of Mormon tithing rules.
  • Providence, RI, is rock bottom – likely a result of high unemployment and dwindling industry.
  • Rich people who live in wealthy, relatively homogeneous enclaves (think Newton, MA) give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in diverse communities (Cambridge, MA).
  • People who live in politically conservative, "red states" are more generous than those in liberal or "blue states."
Jonathan Frieman August 29, 2012 at 03:33 PM
This is one of the most misleading and poorly written articles about a complex topic I have ever read. The headline and tag stand in opposition. It tries to be sensationalistic. And it leaves more questions unanswered than answered. And, it has has been well-known for a loooong time that those who have low incomes give proportionately more. Overall, this is like Marc Levine taking credit for things he didn't do. The article in the Chron of Phil does show its shortcomings, which is nice. So, folks, read that, instead.
Nicole Ely (Editor) August 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Hey Jonathan, Thanks for your feedback. This is only meant to be a quick summary of the findings for San Rafael and we encourage readers to check out the larger project (very interactive and interesting). That's why we included the link to the original report.

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