Thursday, May 19, 2011

God and Money: Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny?

The New York Times has an interesting article on the correlation between religions affiliation and income which, it reports, is 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... 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.
The main driver of the religion/wealth divide is education, according to the study's authors.  The religious groups that had the most educated members, on average, also had the greatest wealth. 

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.
You can see the graph yourself and read the full analysis by following the link above.