Thursday, December 29, 2005

study on increased wealth and going to church

An intriguing new study was published recently in the Economist connecting church-going habits with an increase in income.

The study by Jonathan Gruber, an economist at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), says that regular religious participation leads to better education, higher income, and a lower chance of divorce.

According to the Economist, “His results (based on data covering non-Hispanic white Americans of several Christian denominations, other faiths and none) imply that doubling church attendance raises someone's income by almost 10%.”

Wow! Now who wouldn’t want that?

Although the exact causal link between religious attendance and increased wealth is not firmly established, Gruber gives several possibilities.

First is “social capital”: a web of relationships that fosters trust. “Economists think such ties can be valuable, because they make business dealings smoother and transactions cheaper. Churchgoing may simply be an efficient way of creating them,” the article says.

Second is emotional and perhaps financial insurance, which enables churchgoers to recover more quickly from setbacks, such as the loss of a job, than they would without the support of fellow parishioners.

Another is the link between religion and education: “Gruber's results suggest that higher church attendance leads to more years at school and less chance of dropping out of college. A vibrant church might also boost the number of religious schools, which in turn could raise academic achievement,” says the article.

Finally, the article points out that: “religious faith itself might be the channel through which churchgoers become richer. Perhaps, Mr Gruber muses, the faithful may be ‘less stressed out’ about life's daily travails and thus better equipped for success…..

But given that Jesus warned his followers against storing up treasures on earth, you might think that this wasn't the motivation for going to church that he had in mind.”

Read the article here.

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