Faith & Riches

 

An interesting thing to ponder, this Easter weekend: religious and church-going folk in America tend to be richer and more educated.  From the always-fascinating Joel Kotkin in New Geography:

Many in the pundit class identify religion as something of a regressive tendency, embraced by the less enlightened, the less skilled, intelligent and educated…

Some might be surprised to learn that religious affiliation grows with education levels. A new University of Nebraska study finds that with each additional year of education, the odds of attending religious services increased by 15%. The educated, the study found, may not be eschewing religion, as social science has long maintained, even if their spiritual views tend to be less narrow, and less overtly tied to politics, than among the less schooled.

And within religious groups, there are big differences:

Overall the most cohesive religious groups — such as Mormons and Jews — still outperform their religious counterparts both in educational achievement and income. Both Jews and Mormons focus on helping their co-religionists, providing a leg up on those who depend solely on the charity of others or the state. In countries with a substantial historical Protestant influence such as Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands continue to outperform economic the heavily Catholic nations like Italy, Ireland and Spain, according to a recent European study. The difference, they speculate, may be in Protestant traditions of self-help, frugality and emphasis on education. None of this, of course, would have been surprising to Max Weber.

Overall, though, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that a cohesive religious framework helps not only to hold families together, but to encourage them to grow.  And family growth is key to economic progress:

Religious people, prepared to be seen as uncool, are more likely to seek to produce more offspring. In the United States 47% of people who attend church regularly see the ideal family size as three or more children compared to barely one quarter of the less observant. Mormons have many more children than non-Mormons; observant Jews more than secular. “Faith,” the demographer Phil Longman concludes, “is increasingly necessary as a motive to have children.”

This pattern is reflected in the geography of childbearing. Where churches are closing down, most particularly in core urban areas such as Boston or Manhattan, as well as their metropolitan regions, singletons and childless couples are increasing. In more religiously oriented metropolitan areas like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, the propensity to have children is 15% to nearly 30% higher (as measured by the number of children under the age of 5 per woman of child bearing age– 15-49).

In the future, many high-income societies, whether in East Asia, Europe or North America, may find that religious people’s fecundity is a necessary counterforce to rapid aging and eventual depopulation of the more secular population . The increasingly perilous shape of public finance in almost all advanced countries — largely the result of rapid aging and diminished workforces — can be ascribed at least in part to secularization’s role in falling birthrates.

It’s the churchgoers — the “bitter clinger,” according to our misguided president — who will lead us all out of the mess we’re in.  

Happy Easter.  Happy Passover.  

There are 13 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Douglas

    This ties into an argument I’ve had with some liberals over Islamism. They kept spouting the old saw about Islamic radicalism being spawned by ignorance and lack of schooling. I pointed out to them that the 9/11 hijackers were all educated, and that the London bombers were all natural born British citizens that were raised in British society and had all the benefits of a western liberal education. And yet they chose Jihad. Surveys have shown that the poor working Muslim immigrants that come to the west are fairly moderate in comparison to their peers. But their children… with a lifetime of the money and schooling of the west… tend to be more hardline than their less educated parents.

    Education tends to increase religious commitment and faith, not reduce it. The spread of Christianity and literacy in the west went hand in hand, after all. You’re much more likely to be deeply faithful if you actually read your scriptures for yourself.

    • #1
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    @Madcap

    I think Mormons are one of the most successful subcultures in America. They’re one of the only groups where a man’s fertility actually rises with his education level–in other words, the more years of schooling he has, the more children he has. They’ve managed to crack the nut of modern society quite effectively.

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    @Geometricus

    Since children of educated religious parents tend to have children with similar values, this trend should continue until the non-religious essentially die off (as compared to the exponential growth of the population of church-goers). If I was a non-religious elite, I would seriously consider some kind of plan to keep this from happening, starting with making all the religious people pay for my contraception…

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    @FXMeaney

    As for Islam, if one really educates himself about what the Koran says and Muhammad commands the likelihood of a jihadist emerging, that is, following the true faith, is bound to be much higher.

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    @outstripp

    If this trend continues, in the future we will all be episcopalian.

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  6. Profile Photo Member
    @DuaneOyen
    outstripp: If this trend continues, in the future we will all be episcopalian. · 2 hours ago

    Like Rob, and also have no kids?

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @WalkStar

    Get me to the church on time!

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @JosephEagar
    tabula rasa: The comment about religious people having much higher than average children brings to mind Mark Steyn’s comment on the fate of secular Europe:

    “The design flaw of the radically secularist Eutopia is that it depends on a religious-society birth rate.”

    It’s becoming just as true in the USA. · 7 hours ago

    I think I agree with Rob, though.  Eventually, our population will be uniformily religious, as secular groups fail to reproduce and die off.  My understanding is this happened in Turkey: the secular elite grew too few in number and too corrupt to maintain control.

    I’m rather sanguine about this–secularists like to bring up the Crusades, but I like to bring up Stalin and Mao.  Both were atheists.  I think the world will be better off when all is said and done.

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  9. Profile Photo Member
    @JosephEagar
    FX Meaney: As for Islam, if one really educates himself about what the Koran says and Muhammad commands the likelihood of a jihadist emerging, that is, following the true faith, is bound to be much higher. · 6 hours ago

    Well yeah, but the Koran can be interpreted, and people can cherry-pick the Muhammad they like (e.g. the one who tolerated Christians, or the one who invented jihad). 

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    @GiveMeLiberty
    Geometricus: Since children of educated religious parents tend to have children with similar values, this trend should continue until the non-religious essentially die off (as compared to the exponential growth of the population of church-goers). If I was a non-religious elite, I would seriously consider some kind of plan to keep this from happening, starting with making all the religious people pay for my contraception… · 15 minutes ago

    The only problem with this scenario is that the elites do have a religion, they call it Liberalism, and they have public funded institutions that proselytize to new converts daily.  

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    @GiveMeLiberty
    Douglas: Education tends to increase religious commitment and faith, not reduce it. The spread of Christianity and literacy in the west went hand in hand, after all. You’re much more likely to be deeply faithful if you actually read your scriptures for yourself. · 2 hours ago

    This is so obviously logical that it is dumbfounding that the religous and ignorant meme has been so pervasive. 

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    @tabularasa

    The comment about religious people having much higher than average children brings to mind Mark Steyn’s comment on the fate of secular Europe:

    “The design flaw of the radically secularist Eutopia is that it depends on a religious-society birth rate.”

    It’s becoming just as true in the USA.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Douglas
    Joseph Eagar

    I think I agree with Rob, though.  Eventually, our population will be uniformily religious, as secular groups fail to reproduce and die off.  

    That will never happen, because in any free society, you’re always going to have X number of people that decide they don’t believe, and even become hostile to belief. We’re all individuals at our cores, and in a society where you don’t have government enforcement of “the faith”, certain people will always fall out of it.

    Secondly, such people are attracted to power, and tend to try to propagate their ideas via government power. As long as liberals are in charge of our education system and entertainment, they have powerful tools to, for lack of a better word, “recruit” from our side. Our popular culture is effectively a counter-culture in nature (because it’s run by the veterans of THE Counter Culture, and their descendants). They’ve found their dream jobs: destroying the codes and beliefs they hated so much by luring the children of the other side away, and getting rich while doing it.

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