Ken Stern asks “the wealthiest Americans donate 1.3 percent of their income; the poorest, 3.2 percent. What’s up with that?”
One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.
I remember Jesus once observing a woman quietly slipping a few coins into the offering box at the temple’s entrance and then calling his disciples together with these words:
“I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on” (Mark 12:43-44, CEB)
How is your spirit of generosity in these times?