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Houston, TX
MARCH 2006
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Learn More
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Learn More
In Learn More the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects. Special thanks to the Research Division.

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 Did You Know?  
 Related Links  
 NGS Resources  

Did You Know?Did You Know?

In 1889 industrial age mogul Andrew Carnegie wrote that "the man who dies thus rich dies disgraced." While he made no apologies for income disparities, he argued that it was the responsibility of the wealthy to donate fortunes they had accumulated to worthy causes before their lives were over.  In the first half of the 21st century, some researchers estimate between 41 trillion and 136 trillion dollars will be passed on through estates, and not just from the more than 300 families who count themselves among the ranks of America's billionaires.
Has Carnegie's call become part of the American psyche?  While only one in ten U.S. households has identified a charity in its will, nine out of ten households make an annual contribution to charitable causes, giving about $1,500 each year on average. Contributions from just the 7 percent of American households who are millionaires account for about half of all charitable donations. However, these households possess 63 percent of the nation's wealth. Also, while giving is less common among poorer families, those with low incomes who do give to charity give generously, donating a higher percentage of their incomes than their middle- and high-income counterparts.
Americans find many ways to contribute to the causes they believe in, including giving to umbrella groups such as the United Way, tithing to religious establishments, or donating directly to secular organizations and causes. Since the 1990s, a growing number of benefactors have been forming giving circles with friends and neighbors to focus and amplify the impact of their donations. Giving circles range in formality from potluck dinners to incorporated nonprofit organizations. They give their participants a direct role in choosing beneficiaries, often sponsor volunteer activities, and usually prompt additional donations to target organizations from their members.
—Brad Scriber                                


Related Links

Forbes List of Billionaires
See the list of the world's wealthiest, organized by net worth, age, hometown, and more.
River Oaks Property Owners
Read the early history of the River Oaks neighborhood.
Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Discover more of what Houston has to offer including dining options and museum and theater districts.
Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy
Read about the patterns and motivations for charitable giving.
Chronicle of Philanthropy
Find news about the nonprofit world and those whose careers focus on philanthropy.
The Giving Circles Knowledge Center
Learn more about giving circles, including advice on how to start one in your own community.



Carnegie, Andrew. The Gospel of Wealth and Other Timely Essays.  Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Hollandsworth, Skip.  "Hi, Society!" Texas Monthly (September 2002), 164-67, 194-204
Sheehy, Sandy. Texas Big Rich: Exploits, Eccentricities, and Fabulous Fortunes Won and Lost.  Morrow, 1990.


NGS Resources

Kelly, Patrick J. "On the Road." National Geographic Traveler (September 2005), 46-9.
Teitelbaum, Michael.  Voices From Colonial America: Texas, 1527-1836. National Geographic Books, 2005.
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