The Millionaire Next Door

Conservatives or Liberals: Who Give More?

The following inquiry was sent in by a reporter:

  I am writing an article for the local newspaper regarding who gives the largest percentage of income. I was discussing this article with a liberal friend and he felt that liberals give more money than conservatives. Is he right? Extrapolating from your book it appears to me that Republicans give more than Democrats, but you do not directly comment on this issue. I would like to know your opinion and why have you not made this correlation before? I have read three of your books but have never found any mention of giving to political party, nor income or wealth. Why? I have been on many charitable fund raising groups and my studies indicate that the richest give less as a percent of income (wealth) than the blue collar millionaires. I appreciate your comments before I submit my article to the [newspaper].

As you are probably aware, I do not study people from all levels of income and net worth in America.  Keeping that in mind the short answer to the main question is:  among the high income producing population in America, conservatives give a greater percentage of their income to charitable/noble causes than liberals [a statistically significant larger proportion].

I have never spent much time focusing on how political orientation impacts one’s net worth.  But since I was asked, I went back and crunched some numbers from my national surveys.  Politics is typically an emotional issue.  It is over sensationalized by most media outlets.  It would be very easy for my research to be exploited by various factions.  I’m sure that some political commentators would interpret my findings as to why high income liberals donate less.

What are the characteristic differences including lifestyles that are most pronounced between high income producing liberals and conservatives?  Here are some statistically significant differences: liberals are much more likely to have advanced degrees and graduate at or near the top of their class; the parents of liberals were more likely to be well educated than those of conservatives; liberals are more likely to have lower levels of net worth but have occupations that require advanced degrees; conservatives are found in higher concentrations among wealthy business owners, and conservatives [liberals] are more likely to self designate themselves as having more [less] wealth than their neighbors, living below [above] their means and having more [less] wealth than others in their age/income cohort [and the hard data supports these beliefs].

Two good case examples of these differences are discussed in Stop Acting Rich.  Carlton, a self designated conservative, is a decamillionaire who gives on average over $150,000 per year to noble causes.  He is a self employed business owner who lives in a $450,000 home surrounded by homes in the mid-$300,000.  He is the epitome of the millionaire next door.  He and his wife drive Toyotas and serve $8 wine to their guests.  In sharp contrast, Vivian, who is a self designated liberal, donates on average $25,000 per year.  She and her husband live in a home valued at $1.5M in a neighborhood where the homes range from $1.5M to over $5M.  She unlike Carlton believes that by definition good hosts serve high priced food and wine to their guests.  Vivian graduated in the top 1% of her college class; Carlton graduated in the bottom one-half.

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