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Study: Red states more charitable, but religion more a factor than wealth

Residents in Republican-leaning states give more of their money to charity than those in Democrat-leaning states, according to a new study.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy's study released this week found the eight states with residents who gave the highest percentage of their income to charity in 2008 also voted that year for Republican presidential nominee John McCain. And the seven states in which residents donated the lowest percentage of their income that year voted for President Obama, based on 2008 IRS information.

The eight top charitable states were Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, Arkansas and Georgia, as reported first by The Politico. On the other end of the spectrum were Wisconsin, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.

And don't assume the biggest givers were the wealthier states. Mississippi and Idaho rank among the lowest in the country in per-capita income.

That suggests other factors are involved, and the study’s authors said the reasons for the differences were in part a function of religion and a region’s political philosophy about “the role of government versus charity.”

“Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not,” the study's authors said.

"The regional differences in giving are stark,” the authors also said. “In states like Utah and Mississippi, the typical household gives more than 7 percent of its income to charity after taxes, housing, food and other living expenses, while the average household in Massachusetts and three other New England states gives less than 3 percent.”

Two of the top nine states -- Utah and Idaho -- have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. And the remaining states in the top nine are in the Bible Belt, the study found.

The study included only taxpayers who said they had incomes of $50,000 or more.