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Drop in charitable contributions tied to decline in religious affiliation

Charitable contributions are down in the United States, and faith may have something to do with it, according to Marketwatch.

The share of U.S. adults who donated to charity dropped significantly between 2000 and 2016, according to an analysis released this month from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable. This while other studies show donations to churches are up per person as a result of the expanding economy.

In 2016, 53 percent of Americans gave money to charity, down from 66 percent in 2000. This figure held mostly steady until the recent recession. Then it started to drop off and took a dive after 2010, said report co-author Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly School. The decline amounts to 20 million fewer households donating to charity in 2016 (the most recent year for which data were available) compared with 2000, researchers said.

The analysis drew on data from the Philanthropy Panel Study, a data set within the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which tracks the same 9,000 families’ charitable giving every two years. One factor driving the decline: Americans are becoming less likely to attend religious services or identify with a specific religion.

“Attending services is correlated with giving to religious organizations, but it’s also correlated with giving to secular groups,” Osili said.

Giving to charity is a core belief for many of the world’s major religions, and very religious people of any faith are more likely to give to charity, a study by Baylor University researchers found.

However, there are fewer very religious people than ever in the United States. The share of the population who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” is now at 26 percent, up from 17 percent in 2009, according to 2018 and 2019 surveys by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C.

Some 65 percent of Americans describe themselves as Christians, down 12 percent since 2009, Pew found.

–Alan Goforth |Metro Voice

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