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United Way analysis suggests further declines in middle-class giving

Written on Mar 5, 2019

United Way Worldwide has released Research Brief 2019, an analysis of charitable giving trends in the United States over the past decade.

United Way’s analysis shows a steady decline in the percentage of people giving to charity, with the greatest drop occurring among those taxpayers who do not itemize tax deductions.

Key findings:

Taxpayers who itemize their taxes are twice as likely to donate to charity than those who do not

  • 82% of itemizers donated to charity

  • 40% of non-itemizers donated to charity

  • Taxpayers who itemize give more than twice as much to charity as those who do not

  • $3,504: average donation amount for taxpayers who itemize

  • $1,329: average donation amount for non-itemizers

  • Charitable giving among taxpayers who do not itemize is declining at a rate twice as high as those that itemize

United Way has been vocal in its efforts to revise the 2018 tax law that disincentivized itemization of taxes and led to a drop in the number of taxpayers who itemize by approximately 20 million. Historically, charities focused on human and social services, such as homeless shelters and family services, have been strongly supported by middle income workers who have itemized, and may have taken charitable deductions on their taxes.

“The decline in the numbers of donors is already having a negative impact on the charitable sector,” said Steve Taylor, senior vice president and counsel for public policy, United Way Worldwide. “We believe the tax law will only accelerate this decline and hurt our most vulnerable communities who can least afford it.”

United Way Research analyzed the most recent PSID data available, reflecting donor trends between 2000–2014. This study focused on the financial behavior of this representative set of U.S. households, including those who donate to charity -- those who itemize and those who do not itemize on their tax returns.