50 Most Generous Cities in America


Infographics in Cities & States • July 28, 2016

Stories of police brutality and violence against police, terrorist attacks, and negative political rhetoric have filled the news cycle of late, making it easy to forget the reality of human kindness in the world. So in the tradition of city-rankings (including the most and least churched cities, the most Bible-minded cities and the most post-Christian cities in America), Barna decided to release a new ranking of the top 50 most generous cities in America. Measured by the percentage of those who donated any money to charities and nonprofit organizations, including churches and religious organizations, El Paso, TX tops the list with a host of cities in the south and midwest well-represented among the most generous. The top five cities are as follows:

  1. El Paso, TX / Las Cruces, NM: 92%
  2. Lexington, KY: 91%
  3. Memphis, TN: 90%
  4. Charleston-Huntington, WV: 90%
  5. Milwaukee, WI: 89%

Looking closely at these top five cities, Barna broke the numbers down a little further to look at the socio-economic status of the city. For the El Paso, TX / Las Cruces, NM area, only 7 percent were considered “upscale” (adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more and who do hold a college degree), compared to 13 percent “downscale” (adults with an annual household income of $20,000 or less and who do not hold a college degree). This goes to show that the most generous cities aren’t necessarily the most wealthy. For example, all but one of the top five cities had larger downscale populations than upscale: Lexington, KY (11% upscale vs. 18% downscale), Memphis, TN (11% vs. 25%), Charleston-Huntington, WV (9% vs. 15%), Milwaukee, WI (12% vs. 10%).

Another interesting reality of giving in America is how much of it is directed toward churches. The majority of adults (especially in the top five cities) give to churches. Here is how the top five cities stack up in terms of what percentage of adults gave specifically to churches:

  1. El Paso, TX / Las Cruces, NM: 87%
  2. Lexington, KY: 84%
  3. Memphis, TN: 69%
  4. Charleston-Huntington, WV: 64%
  5. Milwaukee, WI: 73%

Where does your city rank?

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About the Research
The data in this study were analyzed by DMA. The label “DMA” stands for Designated Market Area and represents a unique geographic area that also serves as a commonly accepted media market as defined by The Neilsen Company.  DMAs have been configured so that the entire U.S. is assigned to one – and only one – of 210 DMAs in the country and are based on the television viewing habits of the residents in each county. While there are 210 DMAs, this table contains data for the top 50 markets.

The data reported in this table are based upon telephone and online interviews with nationwide random samples of 76,505 adults conducted over a ten year period, ending in April 2016.  The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±0.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. 

Downscale: Adults with an annual household income of $20,000 or less and who do not hold a college degree
Upscale: Adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more and who do hold a college degree

About Barna Group
The Barna Group is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

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© Barna Group, 2016.

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