Jun 22, 2023 - Economy

Americans are giving to charity at lowest level in nearly 3 decades

Data: Giving USA; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans gave the lowest percentage of their disposable incomes to charity last year since 1995, per a new Giving USA report.

Why it matters: Charities focused on areas like education, human services and the environment took a hit, as Americans faced high inflation and economic uncertainty.

By the numbers: The total amount of charitable giving fell by 3.4% last year to $499.3 billion — a 10.5% decrease when adjusted for inflation, Giving USA found.

Between the lines: Americans gave 1.7% of their personal disposable income to charity in 2022, the lowest level they had given since 1995.

  • The portion of disposable income given to charity rose in the late 1990s and early 2000s, reaching a high of 2.4% in 2005.
  • Americans gave 2.2% of their disposable income to charity in 2007, the last year that data exceeded 2%.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Felix Salmon: Individuals still account for the majority of U.S. charitable giving. But their influence is waning, and as philanthropy supplants charity, Americans feel less need to give their money away.

What they're saying: "I'm encouraged at how resilient we are despite economic uncertainty. People still show up and give," Josh Birkholz, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, told Axios.

  • Birkholz said he's not concerned whether charitable giving can rebound.

Zoom in: Organizations focused on human services saw an 8% decrease when adjusted for inflation. Contributions to organizations focused on the environment and animals dropped by 8.9%.

  • Educational organizations saw a 10.7% decrease, while religious organizations saw a 2.6% decrease.

The big picture: For decades experts have observed a decline in the number of Americans giving, while the contribution totals have been going up.

  • That trend could suggest the wealthy are giving the most, Birkholz noted.
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