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Report finds Utah top in the nation for volunteerism and churchgoers, but attendance is declining

Volunteers handle boxes of donations arriving at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Fairfax, Virginia. The boxes contain the basic necessities for a new life, which are destined for Afghan allies and their families now arriving in the U.S.
Posted at 11:54 AM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 00:27:30-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report shows Utah has the best community life in the country in many ways, but the worst in one way.

The report, titled "The Art of Association: Community Life in Utah," examines how membership in associations has long been part of American culture, though it's been in a long-term decline.

Utah was second to South Dakota in the percent of people contributing to charities.

Utah was clearly first in the three categories of volunteering and religious attendance.

Utah Foundation's study also found that Utah has, by far, the nation’s highest level of neighborhood participation.

This is not the first study to find that Utah outpaces the nation in volunteerism and charitable giving, but even though the state was also clearly at the top regarding weekly church attendance, it is steadily declining.

In two other categories however, Utah didn’t fare well.

Utah was in the bottom tier of states for the number of professional organizations, and last in the nation for the number of non-professional groups like Rotary Clubs, alumni groups and Elks Lodges.

Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard said religion is the most influential non-governmental group in American society.

“Robert Putnam, who is the dean of the study of social capital, says about half of all social capital comes from participation in religious life,” said Reichard.

Reichard also highlighted the state’s high performance on multiple indicators.

“To rank number one in the nation on three of our community life metrics and number two on a fourth – that is truly remarkable for Utah. Those in neighboring states should certainly take note,” he said. “But how can our state do so well on four of the six measures and come in last place on another? That apparent contradiction invites further exploration.”