By Amy Higgins
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Greater Cincinnati ranked as the 20th most generous region in the country, according to a new study of charitable donations by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The study found that Tristate residents give 7.2 percent of their discretionary income to charity, putting the region ahead of most of the country's 50 largest metro areas.
Much of those donations likely go to the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, which runs the 10th largest United Way campaign in the country and raised $60.2 million in its 2003 campaign, said Rob Reifsnyder, president of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
"By the United Way standards, this is absolutely one of the most generous communities in the country," he said. "This community has always prided itself in a strong United Way effort."
The Chronicle study analyzed data from 1997 tax returns that reported more than $50,000 in income and that itemized deductions, including charity donations. The Chronicle also subtracted housing, food, taxes and other basic living costs from total income to arrive at figures for discretionary income.
On that basis, the residents of Salt Lake City-Ogden are the nation's most generous, giving 14.9 percent. Most of the donations go to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which strongly promotes tithing, or donating 10 percent of one's income.
Tom Kirkpatrick, president of the Episcopal Community Services Foundation in Cincinnati, said that many churches encourage tithing, but actual church giving is much lower nationwide.
"Clearly there's a role for all of us to support both types of organizations, religious and non-religious," Kirkpatrick said.
The Chronicle study found that residents of Hartford, Conn., were the least generous, giving only 4.7 percent.
But the study has its shortcomings. Fewer than one-fourth of tax returns filed in 1997 reported more than $50,000 in income, meaning the study automatically excludes giving from 75 percent of the country's taxpayers.
Donors who do not itemize deductions also not taken into account.
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