Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is Religion Good for You?

"Doubling the rate of religious attendance raises household income by 9.1 percent, decreases welfare participation by 16 percent from baseline rates, decreases the odds of being divorced by 4 percent , and increases the odds of being married by 4.4 percent."

This is a summary of an article by Jonathan Gruber. He develops a in which leaving near people of the same religion results in greater religious attendance which in turn creates well-being.
>He speculates that religion increases well-being through several mechanisms:

1) "That religious attendance increases the number of social interactions in a way peculiar to religious settings"

2) "That religious institutions provide financial and emotional "insurance" that help people mitigate their losses when setbacks occur"

3) "That attendance at religious schools may be an advantage"

4) "Religious faith may simply improve well-being directly by enabling the faithful to be "less stressed out" by the problems of every day life"
(Emphasis and enumeration mine)

8 comments:

Jim said...

If all this is true, why do I keep hearing that people are leaving the Church en-masse? In my own 35 year experience, I can testify that membership within any congregation can off bring more emotional upset than what the outside world does. In fact, I've long defined "church" as "God's obstacle course: survive 20 years and you're ready for heaven!"

Peace, health, joy and a number of other assets are found in Him and that tends to help one endure the Church. Everybody's journey, of course, may not reflect my own...

Brad Wright said...

I would imagine that we hear about people leaving because that's more newsworthy than people doing well...

S.S.STONE said...

My mother had a saying, "the family that prays together stays together" I think there is some truth to that.

Jim said...

It isn't just "hearsay" in my neck of the woods, Brad. I can personally testify that, in almost any church I know, either the flow out the back door equals the flow in the front door, or the flow long ago went one way and there's little left inside to produce a flow. There is a big newer appeal-to-the-younger-generation facility up the road that is going, growing strong. We get the telebroadcasts out of those Joel Olsteen football stadiums; but churches, in general, are losing members here in northern Kentucky....

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered the possibility that increases income caused these people to spend more time at church simply because they were better off and could afford to do so?

Nick Fotopoulos said...

"Has anyone considered the possibility that increases income caused these people to spend more time at church simply because they were better off and could afford to do so?"

The above was my comment.

In addition, was a comparison done between those with out religion and those with, or was this only a study of theist?

Brad Wright said...

Hello Nick,

Good question. Studies in this literature often look at religion as both a cause and effect. So, social class might affect which religion you gravitate toward and your religion can affect your social standing.

I think the sample included non-church goers as well.

Edward T. Babinski said...

The survey described people who lived near churches, attended those churches regularly, and whose income was greater than the mean. This sounds merely like a homogenous fairly well paid middle class community. But I don't think you can conclude from such a survey that religion is good for a person.

For instance would it be good for them in an intellectual and emotional sense to continue to claim to the community that they believed things they honestly no longer believed?

As in all statistical surveys it comes down to the individual. How many people really believe that simply by upping their church attendance they are going to earn 9.1% more money at their jobs? Perhaps if they networked at church and found out about a better job. But that has little do with the truth or falsity of religious beliefs.

And on the negative side, expressing doubts about one's religion in such a homogenous community could conceivably be very bad, separating a person from their family, church family and their community in general.