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Continental’s Charitable Donations May Be In Departure Lounge

Continental and United’s proposed merger entails a relocation of Continental’s headquarters to Chicago. Houstonians (rightfully) fear that this means a relocation of charitable contributions, too.

A recent Nick Anderson cartoon in the Houston Chronicle highlights the city’s concerns about the proposed United-Continental merger, which would relocate Continental’s headquarters to Chicago. Houston, which has been the airline’s home since 1982, fears the merger means a loss of jobs, prestige — and charitable contributions.

Research outlined in a previous article suggests this concern is well founded. Corporate headquarters do increase charitable donations in a city, not necessarily because the corporations themselves donate more, but because they employ and attract wealthy individuals who do.

Although the study put Houston on the short list of cities that have been gaining corporate headquarters, the city seems likely to lose this one. Don’t feel too bad for America’s fourth most populous city, though: Houston will still be second only to New York City as a home to U.S. corporate headquarters, and even after the loss of Continental, it will still be home to 23 Fortune 500 companies’ headquarters.

While some contend that the merger is anything but a done deal (and many have decried the proposed choice of headquarters as presidential pandering), it looks like, should it go through, the losers will be Houston’s nonprofits.