Monday, February 16, 2009

Economic Depressions and Religious Booms

From a recent New Scientist editorial:
A 2007 study showed that the growth rate of evangelical churches in the US jumps 50 per cent with the downturn of each economic cycle. The global downturn is no different: church leaders (and psychics) are now reporting brisk business.
From an older New York Times article:
In “Praying for Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States,” David Beckworth, an assistant professor of economics at Texas State University, looked at long-established trend lines showing the growth of evangelical congregations and the decline of mainline churches and found a more telling detail: During each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth in evangelical churches jumped by 50 percent. By comparison, mainline Protestant churches continued their decline during recessions, though a bit more slowly.


Dr. Beckworth, a macroeconomist, posited another theory [to explain the differences between evangelical and mainline Protestant churches]: though expanding demographically since becoming the nation’s largest religious group in the 1990s, evangelicals as a whole still tend to be less affluent than members of mainline churches, and therefore depend on their church communities more during tough times, for material as well as spiritual support. In good times, he said, they are more likely to work on Sundays, which may explain a slower rate of growth among evangelical churches in nonrecession years.
Beckworth's paper can be found here.

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