NEW YORK: Americans are digging ever deeper into their pockets to share their wealth with deserving causes - namely arts and culture.

According to a new report from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, US citizens gave away a record $295.02 billion (€219bn; $147.6bn) in charitable donations during 2006, up 4.2% on the previous year.

They are following the lead of high profile philanthropists such as billionaire businessman Warren Buffet, who gave away $1.9bn in 2006.

The report says gifts to arts, cultural and humanities organizations rose 9.9% to $12.51bn last year, the biggest percentage change since 2000.

This type of giving reflects the increasing numbers of wealthy households in the US, which tend to favour the arts as objects of their generosity rather than, say, homeless people.

Donations to human services fell 9.2% to $29.56bn, while giving to international causes also dropped 9.2% to $11.34bn, though this can be explained by the fortunate paucity of major natural disasters.

Charitable giving made up around 2.2% of the the nation's GDP in 2006, approximately the same as the previous year.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online and Xinhua: additional content by WARC staff