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updated 9/8/2010 3:01:08 PM ET 2010-09-08T19:01:08

Australia and New Zealand shared first place, and the United States tied for fifth, in a first-of-its kind survey ranking 153 nations on the willingness of their citizens to donate time and money to charity.

China ranked near the bottom, barely higher than last-place Madagascar.

The report, released Wednesday by the British-based Charities Aid Foundation, showed striking variations in charitable behavior around the world.

For example, it found that only 4 percent of Lithuanians gave money to charity, compared with 83 percent of people in Malta; 61 percent of people in Turkmenistan did volunteer work, compared with 2 percent of Cambodians.

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The overall rankings were a composite of three categories — the percentage of people who donated money, donated time and helped a stranger in the month prior to being surveyed.

Australia and New Zealand topped the index with an average score of 57 percent, trailed by Canada and Ireland at 56 percent, and the United States and Switzerland at 55 percent.

Several of the world's most populous countries were near the bottom of the index — including India in 134th place, Russia in 138th and China in 147th. Only 4 percent of Chinese people donate their time to charity, and only 6 percent of Russians donate money, according to the survey.

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In the West African nation of Liberia, only 8 percent of the population give money to charity every month, yet 76 percent regularly help a stranger — more than any other country.

Overall, among all those surveyed worldwide, 20 percent volunteered time in the month prior to being interviewed, 30 percent donated money, and 45 percent helped a stranger. For the U.S., the figures were 60 percent donating money, 39 percent volunteering time and 65 percent helping a stranger.

"Many countries at the bottom of the list benefit enormously from U.S. philanthropy," said Susan Saxon-Harrold, CEO of Charities Aid Foundation America. "It's important that Americans continue to build up indigenous philanthropy in countries such as China, Russia and India."

The report was based primarily on data from Gallup's WorldView World Poll, an ongoing research project carried out in 153 countries accounting for 95 percent of the world's population.

In most countries surveyed, 1,000 questionnaires were completed — in telephone and face-to-face interviews— by a representative sample of individuals living in urban centers. Margins of error ranged from plus or minus 5.3 percentage points in Lithuania to plus or minus 2.6 percentage points in India.

___

Online:

Charities Aid Foundation: http://www.cafonline.org/

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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