SHORT HILLS, NJ - It is no secret that Short Hills is a very wealthy community, especially considering neighboring New Jersey towns.
Filled with people working on Wall Street and affluent college graduates, the fact that 69% of residents make more than $150,000 per year is not as surprising as it probably should be. However, one thing that is surprising is the charitable side of town residents. In 2016, Short Hills donated the most out of any zip code in New Jersey with total contributions amounting to $180 million.
Assuming each Short Hills household donates the exact same amount, which is simply part of the hypothetical scenario, the $180 million would come out to approximately $43,902 in donations for every one of the roughly 4,100 households. And that number is 72% of the average American household income of $61,371.
The number is astronomical by any standard, especially compared to what others in a similar tax bracket donate annually. Those Americans donate about half of that amount each Short Hills resident would donate, sticking with this equal donation scenario. However, considering the residence of two charitable billionaires in town, it is evident the $180 million is not at all distributed equitably across each household.
To figure out why a relatively small town could and would generate such benevolence, it is important to understand Short Hills' wealth beyond the fact that the wealth exists. Not only is it abnormal for a household to make over $150,000, but it is also abnormal for several households all in that top income range to be concentrated together.
People living in Short Hills all have money to spare, which begs the question of why the residents would make an effort to be giving when that surplus of money could easily be used for something more selfish.
The current trend across the country is donations to charity are higher than ever before, but less people are making donations. Short Hills factors into that national trend. This community sets an example of the objective good wealth can be used for. However, these intentions may not necessarily be something for residents to start patting themselves on the back about. The psychological and tangible benefits of donation go far beyond simply helping others.
By giving to charity, people fundamentally feel good. It is easy for someone to give money in order to patch his/her own wounds. Similarly, the factor of guilt also plays a key role. When living as well as many do in Short Hills, it becomes harder to ignore those who lack the same prosperity.
Not to overlook that donations to nonprofits are usually tax deductible if they are itemized on tax formed. Interestingly, wealthier taxpayers more frequently itemize their donations than the average person. It is possible the motivations are entirely altruistic, as well, but there is no realistic way to tell what everyone’s intentions were.
When rich people, like Short Hills residents, donate money, the assumption is always on either extreme outlined here. Perhaps it is simply better to let the fact stand that money was donated for the betterment of the world and leave it at then. Donations help, regardless of the intentions behind them.
Short Hills receives the collective praise for this statistic, whether or not every resident deserves that marker, which certainly helps the reputation of this town. It elevates Short Hills from more than Time Magazine’s richest town of 2014. Now, that fortune is indicative of more than materialism. And hopefully, after more awareness is generated about what Short Hills was able to “collectively” accomplish, more are inspired to make an impact through their place in the world, zip code 07078.