Monday, April 14, 2008

Do the rich do religion differently than the poor?

Among the various ways that wealth affects the practice of religion, Iannaccone (1997) suggests a trade-off between money and time. According to him:

People with low monetary values of time (i.e., the poor), will give less total money and more time to their religious groups.

In contrast, the wealthy, who put a greater money value on time, will give money in lieu of time.
As a result: "
Richer congregations opt for a variety of time-saving, money-intensive practices: shorter-services, more reliance on professional staff (such as clergy, custodians, choir directors, and paid soloists), larger and more costly facilities (permitting less use of members' homes for special meetings), less reliance on volunteered labor, and more reliance on purchased goods and services (such as catered meals in place of potlucks."

Now, I've never been a member of a wealthy congregation (though the shorter service times sound appealing), but this sounds feasible.


kent said...

My first church was in small town in Iowa, and yes they did have more time than money, consequently they did everything around the church. They were very hands on. They would have never thought of hiring anyone to do what they were more than capable of doing. In my second church, they had about a 50/50 split on time and money, so they gave time, but they would also hire out for other things to be done. They lived for the most part within ashort distance of the church so helping out wasn't difficult for them. Now in suburban Chicago, we all have more money than time. We hire everything out. The idea of having a work day is a wonderful fantasy. We pay an outrageous amount of money to have our sidewalks shoveled in the winter. Not just lot plowed, the side walks shoveled.

Sid said...

Could it be that large churches are more economicly feasable in more afluent areas as it costs a lot of money to grow a large church? The larger the church the more likely it is that the staff "runs" the church and thus hires out these kinds of things because it takes time and work to develop the volunteers who are willing to do those kind of things when asked. There are some large churches who buck this trend in my experience but it only happens when the staff make it more of a priority to see people in ministry than to see more people in the seats.

1 question of clarification though. I've always heard that those in the lower economic strata give a higher percentage of their income to the church and other causes than the wealthy do.