Conservative Protestants tend to save less and accumulate fewer assets than other Americans, and their religious beliefs contribute to their low wealth, according to a new study by a Duke University sociologist.
Wow. I would have thought the opposite. I would have thought that protestants saved. I mean, Jesus saved…
“We know that wealth ownership is extremely unequal in the U.S., and large numbers of families have little or no savings. However, sociologists and economists have just begun to explore why that is,” said Lisa A. Keister, Duke professor of sociology and author of “Conservative Protestants and Wealth: How Religion Perpetuates Asset Poverty,” published in the March issue of the American Journal of Sociology.
“While there is evidence that religion and wealth are related, what has been missing is a clear account of the process by which religion affects the wealth of believers,” she said.
The study examines why conservative Protestants are dramatically overrepresented at the bottom of the U.S. wealth distribution and concludes that the cultural understandings that accompany conservative Protestant beliefs influence wealth ownership directly and indirectly.
The direct influence stems from conservative Protestants’ unique approach to finances — in particular the belief that people are managers of God’s money and excess accumulation of wealth should be avoided.
In addition, conservative Protestants have tended to be less educated and have large families beginning at younger ages; and fewer conservative Protestant women work, all of which indirectly contribute to slow asset accumulation, Keister said.
“Really the question is, ‘How does religion affect inequality?’ I’m identifying the mechanisms by which this happens for one group, but it can help us understand other groups as well,” she said.
The study, reported in this press release, focused on conservative groups, such as Asemblies of God, Baptist, Churches of Christ, Church of God in Christ, and so on.
Religious beliefs affect conservative Protestants’ wealth in a number of ways. They influence wealth ownership directly by shaping the values that people use to make work and financial decisions. In particular, Biblical references to God’s exclusive ownership of worldly goods lead to practices which are likely to reduce saving and asset accumulation.
Yea, but how? Is god telling them to invest, but maybe god is not so good at this investment thing? Apparently… apparently the conservative christians tend to believe that …
divine advice, advice from clergy and other religious advice about money and work have merit. More conservative Protestants than other people surveyed are likely to pray about financial decisions, for example.
Hmmm. …. maybe they should try rational thinking. Apparently they also believe that excelssive accumulation of wealth is undesirable. Personally, I think this is post-hoc justification of having listened to voices in their heads. We don’t see a lot of rich drive-in preachers tossing their money awya.
Another finding of the study is this: Low wealth tends to associate with low educational attainment. The conservative Protestant Christians tend to have low educational levels.
And, of course, they have huge families. They are breeding like rabbits. That can run up the bills.
The study examined three groups: People who were conservative Protestants in both childhood and adulthood; those who were raised conservative Protestants but left; and those who joined conservative Protestant churches as adults. It found that all three groups have relatively low wealth, but that the lifelong conservative Protestants had the lowest wealth, and those who joined the denominations as adults had the highest.
This suggests that values learned in childhood have a strong influence on saving and assets later in life, Keister said.
“Some people have just decided that saving money in my own bank account isn’t what they want,” she said, noting that conservative Protestants are among the most generous contributors to churches and related organizations. “Some people are consciously deciding to do other things with their wealth.”
Keister notes that the results could be influenced by the conservative Protestants’ socioeconomic class, but she found that religion had a significant effect after controlling for class background, adult class and other indicators such as parents’ education and income.
Nor does race appear to be responsible for the effect of conservative Protestantism on wealth. She found that the effect was stronger among black conservative Protestants, but was significant among whites as well.
Jesus saved so that you do not have to.