RR has reported on the many studies that show people of conservative bent vastly outspend liberals in contributions to private charities (and that, dollar for dollar, private charities are enormously more effective in helping the poor and disadvantaged than are government programs). The intuitive reasons for that are easy to grasp, at least for many of us, and they are backed by an analysis of the data.
The 2013 report - ‘Who Really Gives? Partisanship and Charitable Giving in the United States’ - from MIT by Michele F. Margolis and Michael W. Sances attempts to recover from this embarrassment by arguing that if you control for certain factors, then we can see both the Left and Right in a more equitable light, even though the Right still gives more than the Left. (H/T to a reader working on a related report for the link to this one.)
For those recently arrived on Earth, the proximal reason for the disparate giving is that liberals, who are mostly secular humanists, look to an all-encompassing and providing government to take care of the needy, while conservatives are taught and practice that it is an individual responsibility to fill that gap. The interesting corollary is that most of the tax dollars for such ‘government giving’ then also comes from the conservatives as implied by Margolis and Sances. (BTW, to see where in the country who gives how much, here is an interesting website by Chronicle of Philanthropy.)
In any event, the Margolis and Sances report turns out to be a secular humanist bamboozle of the kind in which the Left is a demonstrated and practiced expert (cf. most recently MIT’s Jonathan Gruber’s apologetics for lying about the construct and operation of Obamacare to the “stupid American voters”). They use a lot of statistical mumbo-jumbo to paper over their revealing introductory admission that the results come about by having ‘controlled’ for disparities in income/wealth and religiosity between the two ideological cohorts.
Well yes, in the aggregate conservatives have life philosophies that to a greater degree promote individual initiatives and risk taking enterprises that garner more income and wealth, all which then allows them to give a larger dollar amount to the charities of their choice. And yes, conservatives are more religious, therefore they do a lot of their giving through faith-based organizations like churches and synagogues. And, of course, they do not trust wealth redistribution through government or lackey NGOs, so they don’t direct their monies to the needy through those channels – that’s what makes them conservatives in the first place.
But what the non-technical reader (let alone the nation’s innumerates) don’t catch in such reports is the statistical bamboozle of ‘factoring out’ or ‘controlling for’ to achieve support for your desired conclusion. These processes have the panache of rigorous science that the layman seldom questions. You should know that it is always possible to factor out the main causal variables in a dataset so that you can essentially wind up with a blob of scattered noise equally distributed between contending cohorts that then appears to give any level of desired parity – in the present case that there’s not much difference in the giving behaviors of conservatives and liberals.
The conclusion is so much bovine scat as any tally of sourced monies going to the poor and needy through (secular or religious) private charities demonstrates. And this conclusion is even visible in the contorted presentation by Margolis and Sances. ‘Touche Monsieur le Puuzy Kat!’ (Remember the famous musketeer Tom & Jerry cartoon?)