The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Red states give more to charity. It’s because of religion.

Wealthier Americans gave less to charity in 2012 than they did in 2006, while poorer Americans gave more, a new analysis from The Chronicle of Philanthropy indicates. It's the most recent look at giving from the periodical, and that gap in giving -- particularly given the recession that occurred between those two years -- is what jumped out to them.

Something else caught our attention. Of the states that gave the most to charity in 2012, the top 17 all voted for Mitt Romney that year. The bottom seven states in giving all voted for Obama.

What could this mean? Is it the bootstraps, replace-the-safety-net-with-charity philosophy at work? On the interactive map provided, it's clear that the region with the densest giving was the South.

But that almost certainly correlates with another tendency that The Chronicle reported on last year: Religious people give more to charity. And in its annual assessment of the nation's religiosity, Gallup reveals that the states at the top of the giving list -- Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee -- are also at the top in terms of religious devotion.

That question about the recession stuck with us, though. One would expect that, as the effects of the recession increased, charitable giving would likely drop. As The Chronicle pointed out, though, that's not what happened.

We pulled the change in poverty level in each state between 2006 and 2012 and compared it to the national change -- a 2.6-percentage-point increase. Then we mapped that against the change in giving in each state between those same years. States that saw lower poverty increases versus the national average were more likely to see declines. States that saw high poverty increases versus the national average -- that is, more poor people -- were more likely to see increases.

The gray line shows the national trend. It's a loose correlation, thanks in part to a number of Romney states that were disproportionately generous compared to the national trend.

The Chronicle also broke down giving by cities. The metropolitan region that gave the most was Salt Lake City, for reasons explained above. The city that gave the least? Hartford, Connecticut, insurance capital of the world. Make of that what you will.