The rich have always played a leading role in charitable giving. Now their role is getting larger. In fact, soon the middle class may not even have a speaking part.
The growing domination by the very wealthy in philanthropy is the central topic of the new report “Gilded Giving” from the Institute for Policy Studies. Authors Chuck Collins, Helen Flannery, and Josh Hoxie write how over the last decade a growing percentage of charitable giving in the United States has come from the highest earners. Over that period itemized charitable contributions by the top one percent have increased by 57 percent; itemized contributions from people making $10 million or more – essentially, the top tenth of the top one percent – are up 104 percent.
And what of the middle class, defined for the purposes of the study as families earning less than $100,000? The statistics are less definitive, because a significantly smaller percentage of middle- and lower-income taxpayers itemize their deductions. But for those who do, charitable donations have declined by 34 percent. The report also suggests that over the same period the number of low- and mid-range donations to national charities has declined by 25 percent.
So if we are to believe this report – and I tend to do so – fewer people of modest and average means are giving to charity at all, while those who are still contributing are giving less. Continue reading