Mill Valley ranks 261th among 11,522 cities nationwide in charitable contributions, but the least wealthy residents of the 94941 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 Mill Valley, which included the unincorporated areas outside city limits within the 94941 zip code, shows that residents as a whole contributed $63.8 million. The median contribution of $5,938 and average discretionary income of $127,759. The percent of income given was 4.6 percent among the 7,445 tax returns analyzed in the 94941.
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 Mill Valley residents gave:
- $50,000 - $99,999. Percent of income given: 19.5 percent; average contribution: $2,186; average discretionary income: $11,220; number of tax returns: 1,920.
- $100,000 - $199,999. Percent of income given: 4.9 percent; average contribution: $3,156; average discretionary income: $63,789; number of tax returns: 2,506.
- $200,000 and up. Percent of income given: 4.4 percent; average contribution: $17,106; average discretionary income: $384,568; number of tax returns: 3,019.
The findings in Mill Valley 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, Mill Valley gave more money but a lower 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.
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."