If I were a rich man: study sheds light on religion and wealth

Does what you believe affect what you earn?

Some insight, from the New York Times:

The economic differences among the country’s various religions are strikingly large, much larger than the differences among states and even larger than those among racial groups.

The most affluent of the major religions — including secularism — is Reform Judaism. Sixty-seven percent of Reform Jewish households made more than $75,000 a year at the time the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life collected the data, compared with only 31 percent of the population as a whole. Hindus were second, at 65 percent, and Conservative Jews were third, at 57 percent.

On the other end are Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptists. In each case, 20 percent or fewer of followers made at least $75,000. Remarkably, the share of Baptist households making $40,000 or less is roughly the same as the share of Reform Jews making $100,000 or more. Overall, Protestants, who together are the country’s largest religious group, are poorer than average and poorer than Catholics. That stands in contrast to the long history, made famous by Max Weber, of Protestant nations generally being richer than Catholic nations.

Many factors are behind the discrepancies among religions, but one stands out. The relationship between education and income is so strong that you can almost draw a line through the points on this graph. Social science rarely produces results this clean.

What about the modest outliers — like Unitarians, Buddhists and Orthodox Christians, all of whom are less affluent than they are educated (and are below the imaginary line)? One possible explanation is that some religions are more likely to produce, or to attract, people who voluntarily choose lower-paying jobs, like teaching.

There’s more at the link, including a graph.

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3 responses to “If I were a rich man: study sheds light on religion and wealth”

  1. Greg:

    I read the original article several times and studied the chart in great detail. Frankly, most of the data shown does not surprise me at all — with the possible placement of the Hindus. I simply do not know enough of them to make any judgement about where they might fit.

    Several cultural caricatures and stereotypes, however, seem to be reinforced here:

    –My closest Jewish friend spent his entire career in Hospital Security and only had an earned Associate of Applied Science degree in Law Enforcement. He did admit to me once that within his own Reform Jewish congregation he was something of a pariah since he did not have a doctorate.

    –Somewhere along the line I heard a comment that the Episcopalian Church was really where wealthy American Protestant business folks worship. In my town, our one Episcopalian congregation is small by local Catholic standards (less than 150 family units) but it easily supports a full-time pastor. The current one is single but most of the ones I knew before were married men with families.

  2. How much does geography play into this? You won’t find many Jews in Mississippi but you will find a lot in NYC. Which btw, 100K in NYC probably buys you about the same standard of living as 40K in Miss. So who is actually wealthier?

    Gotta love stats. They rarely mean what any one person says they do.

  3. My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the high income among Hindus MAY be related to the preponderance of doctors, engineers, IT professionals, and other high-paid professions among immigrants from the Indian subcontinent to the U.S.

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