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Passing the PlateWhy American Christians Don't Give Away More Money$
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Christian Smith, Michael O. Emerson, and Patricia Snell

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195337112

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195337112.001.0001

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Failed Generosity

Failed Generosity

(p.29) Chapter 2 Failed Generosity
Passing the Plate

Christian Smith (Contributor Webpage)

Michael O. Emerson (Contributor Webpage)

Patricia Snell (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines various data sources on charitable giving in the United States to establish six crucial facts about the giving of American Christians. These are that at least one out of five American Christians — twenty percent of all American Christians — gives literally nothing to church, para-church, or nonreligious charities; the vast majority of American Christians give very little to church, para-church, or nonreligious charities; American Christians do not give their dollars evenly among themselves, but, rather, a small minority of generous givers among them contributes most of the total Christian dollars given; higher income earning American Christians — like Americans generally — give little to no more money as a percentage of household income than lower income earning Christians; despite a massive growth of real per capita income over the 20th century, the average percentage share of income given by American Christians not only did not grow actually declined slightly during this time period; and the vast majority of the money that American Christians do give to religion is spent in and for their own local communities of faith — little is spent on missions, development, and poverty relief outside of local congregations, particularly outside the United States.

Keywords:   charitable giving, charities, Christian dollars, generosity, poverty relief

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