Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution posted this question from a reader, referring to Las Vegas:
I lived there for four years and was always curious. I guess the more sin, the more churches???
Tyler offers these reasons:
I would think that most of the churches in Las Vegas are for the residents, not the tourists, and thus the quantity of sin is not a major factor. Why should the residents be especially sinful? (Don’t forget that lots of sinful activities seem to be produced at constant returns to scale, so there’s not always free-riding upon the sin infrastructure for tourists plus parking is an issue.) In explaining the number of churches, I would expect three factors to play a role:
1. Perhaps migrants to Las Vegas are more likely to come from the South.
2. Most of the population growth is recent, so churches serve a valuable function of social networking.
3. Las Vegas has no dominant established religion so there is much religious competition and thus many different churches.
According to my late friend Clark, Vegas also had the largest per capita number of wedding chapels — for obvious reasons. I am not sure if the statistic in question refers to the chapels as churches. But the places used for eloping are certainly not the same places people go to worship.
So why the churches? I suppose if you lose a lot of money, prayer may seem like the only solution to your problems…
What do you think?