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A new study out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that people in poorer areas, whether it’s the poorest people or their white neighbors, tend to be more religious than people in wealthier areas. It also shows that even when economic problems such as economic deprivation are mitigated, religion still declines.
The new research, which is published in the Journal of Religion Research, looks at the relationship between religion and economic well-being.
“We find that a region’s average scores on various measures of economic well-being are positively correlated with their level of religiosity,” said study author David L. Reuter, associate professor of sociology and of anthropology and director of the UNC Center for the Study of Religion. “Our findings also indicate that this relationship holds for all economic deprivation levels; that is, even in the worst circumstances, religiosity is actually associated with economic strength.”
Reuter and his team interviewed 50 Americans of all ages, income groups and races. Each respondent was asked to respond to nine questions including:
1. How religious do you feel and how often do you attend religious services?
2. How often do you feel the need to pray?
3. How much do you worry about being poor?
4. How much do you want to contribute to a charitable or philanthropic cause?
5. How much time do you spend each day thinking about religion?
6. Do you ever feel that God is telling you how to live your life?
7. How much does financial hardship affect your religious practices or activities?
The researchers used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Survey of Income and Program Participation. They used the responses on the previous questions to predict income for each respondent. Reuter said that while low-income people are generally more religious, people who feel the need to pray also had lower incomes.
“Those who have a strong religious identity
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