Mississippi Leads the Nation in Charitable Giving By Laura Walsh, The Associated Press HARTFORD, Conn. - New England states making more, giving less Mississippi retains its title as the most giving state for the eighth consecutive year, according to the 2004 Generosity Index created by Catalogue for Philanthropy. Following right behind are Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee. New England residents continue to earn more and give back less, according to the annual index of charitable giving. Connecticut ranks first when it comes to making money, but joins New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island in falling to the very bottom of the 2004 Index. (Guess that's because they are secularist, liberal states, which pontificate about helping the disadvantaged and less fortunate among us--but not if the money has to come from their own pockets.) The survey is based on the average adjusted income of residents and the value of itemized charitable donations reported on 2002 federal tax returns, the latest year available. New England's stinginess is nothing new. New Hampshire has been labeled the least generous state for six out of the last eight years, with only Massachusetts stealing the title in 1998 and 1999. While the Nutmeg State has the nation's highest average adjusted gross income at $64,724, its residents donate $175 less to charity than the national average. That ranks Connecticut 44th, a slip of seven places from last year. Carol Schofield, of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, said she's disappointed to see where Connecticut ranks, but defends the state's charity work. Factors, such as the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 and a slow economy may influence how much people are willing to donate, she said. The index does not take into account non-itemized giving or volunteering, Schofield added. The latest index reflects a country coping with an economic slump - the national average gross income in 2002 dropped nearly 2.4 percent to $45,953. Despite the drop, the average individual donation fell less than 1 percent. Exceptions to the trend can be found in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, where the decline in giving exceeded the decline in income. Southern and Midwestern states, again, top off the generosity index. The region's high generosity level has been attributed to the practice of tithing - giving a tenth of one's earnings to the church. Mississippi consistently earns its place as No. 1 on the list by generating the greatest disparity between income and charitable contributions. It is ranked as the poorest state in the nation, but comes in fifth on the index for its "giving" rank. The average itemized filer in Mississippi reported $4,484 in donations in 2002. That beats the national average by $1,029. Although critics accuse the generosity index of shaming states into giving more, officials at The Catalogue for Philanthropy say the survey is a way of comparison. The Boston, Mass.-based nonprofit group created the index eight years ago. "Generosity is really what you give as a function of what you have," said spokesman Martin Cohn.