Thursday, April 03, 2008

Church attendance and denominational concentration

Here's an interesting chart from an article by Iannaccone, an economist who studies religion (1998, J. Econ. Lit). He plots the concentration of denominations in a country by the percentage of people in that country that attend church. As shown above, there's a strong, negative correlation.

Countries with most people in just a few denominations (e.g., Scandinavia and national churches) have people attending church much less often. According to the article, this finding happens at the regional and city level as well. His interpretation: The more churches competing for a person's attendance, the more people attend a church. Each church finds a different niche that appeals to some people that other churches wouldn't.

So, perhaps the best way for a church to get people in the community to attend church is to encourage other church plants.

1 comment:

Jay Livingston said...

It looks to me like it's more about solidarity and identity than about theology. Maybe the correlation exists because going to services is a way to reaffirm your identity as a member of your religion. When everyone in the society is also a member of that religion, there's not much threat to that identity. But when you're in the minority, you may feel the need to reconfirm that religious identity. I doubt, for example, that many people in Napoli would join the Sons of Italy lodge (if one exisited there, which I doubt that it does).

In the US, there are so many religions and sects that everyone is in a minority.