Inequality, Geography, and Workplace Giving

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February 24th, 2014, via Truist

inequality geography and workplace giving

Employee giving has in many ways become an American institution. What began as a fall tradition now sees employees regularly making contributions at all times of year to the causes and organizations so important to all of us.

A recent study from America’s Charities has estimated this employee giving to be at $3 billion dollars in 2013. It has become a practice now almost universally recognized as a vital source of funding for important causes around America and the world.

TRUiST research into data on the industry-leading $300 million-plus worth of employee donations our company facilitated in 2013 provides a great deal of insight into this phenomenon of employee giving. What emerges is a clear narrative in which the level of giving varies greatly by geography.

TRUiST’s research examined average donations in cities and states across over 1 million employee donations in 2013. These numbers were compared to factors such as 2013 year-end unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and data on income inequality and median incomes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

America’s Most Generous Big Cities in 2013

City Average Donation
1. New York $600.49
2. San Francisco $498.69
3. Chicago $432.35
4. Charlotte $429.61
5. Dallas $397.45
6. Austin $335.81
7. Philadelphia $315.49
8. Los Angeles $311.02
9. Houston $310.56
10. Memphis $282.00
11. Columbus $238.56
12. Phoenix $230.31
13. Indianapolis $192.34
14. San Antonio $174.33
15. Jacksonville $161.61
16. San Jose $147.91
17. San Diego $131.54

Broadly speaking, the research begs questions about the interplay between employee giving and external economic. What emerges is a portrait of the employee giving landscape in which the average employees’ donations demonstrate responsiveness to the economic conditions faced by others in their communities.

The state with the highest average employee donation in 2013 was New Mexico at $629 per donation, while Montana had the lowest average donation of $76.  States which you might expect to have high average donations, like California or New York State, are ranked surprisingly low by their averages. In addition none of the top 10 states by employee giving rank higher than 15th on a Bureau of Labor Statistics ranking of states by unemployment rates.

Similarly, cities with an abundance of socially conscious policies and educated individuals with high median incomes, like San Jose or San Diego (1st and 3rd highest median incomes on the list respectively), had average employee donations which ranked behind cities like Memphis and Charlotte.

The U.S. Census Bureau has utilized the Gini coefficient to measure income inequality in the U.S. since 1967. The measure is also the dominant means of examining income distributions for international bodies like the International Labor Organization and the U.N. Development Program.

Of the nine big cities with average donations higher than the 2013 average across all of TRUiST’s clients, seven reside in large metro areas with levels of inequality higher than the US as a whole as measured using Gini coefficient data in a report from the U.S. Census Bureau. In comparison only 13 of 48 U.S. metro areas with populations over 1 million have similarly high levels of inequality.  The two exceptions, Austin and Dallas, both reside in Texas, a state which ranks 6thworst out of 50 on measures of inequality in that same report.

As the old axiom goes, correlation does not imply causation. Yet these are statistically significant correlations which suggest that some of the variation in average employee donation might be explained by economic factors such as unemployment rates, levels of regional income inequality, or other local economic factors.

The result is an even stronger case for the responsiveness and value of employee giving. This case makes employee giving and volunteering more than tradition. If employees are giving more when inequality is greater, they are in effect giving more when more is needed. That responsiveness to need can serve as evidence of the role of employee giving as a key tool by which employees and companies can help those their communities. From the CSR side, an effective campaign will be aware of the affect that these factors can have on employee’s average donations and will leverage that awareness to shape effective campaigns, incentivizing and communicating to maximize positive outcomes.

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