Can Your Religion Affect Your Income?

A brief but interesting article in the New York Times Magazine this weekend noted the economic differences among the various religious denominations in the United States. Of course, education plays a role, too:

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, compared with only 31 percent of the population as a whole. Hindus were second, at 65 percent, and Conservative Jews were third, at 57 percent.


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. Remarkably, the share of Baptist households making $40,000 or less is roughly the same as the share of Reform Jews making $100,000 or more. Overall, Protestants, who together are the country’s largest religious group, are poorer than average and poorer than Catholics. That stands in contrast to the long history, made famous by Max Weber, of Protestant nations generally being richer than Catholic nations.

Many factors are behind the discrepancies among religions, but one stands out. 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.

Read the rest here.

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7 years 10 months ago
I have two comment:

First - When I was in college, I was a counselor at a Jewish day camp one summer.  My assistant was in high school and Jewish.  We got pretty close by the end of the summer and would talk about various things.  One was religion and he said that few Jews believed in God and were atheists.  It was all a cultural thing.  I was taken aback but then a few years later I taught at Fordham and there were several Orthodox Jews on the faculty who for them religion was a big deal.  I asked them why they taught at Fordham and the answer was they felt more comfortable there than at a secular university.

I also taught at City University for awhile and more than half the faculty in my department was Jewish.  So I found it interesting that Orthodox Jews would rather teach at a Catholic university than a secular one that had a mostly Jewish faculty. 

Second - if you break out the Protestants and Catholics by other demographics you will probably get very big skews between sub groups.
7 years 10 months ago
''That stands in contrast to the long history, made famous by Max Weber, of Protestant nations generally being richer than Catholic nations.''

If you read Deirdre McCloskey you will get a more accurate picture on what went on and why the Western world got so rich.  The Proteestant ethic had an effect but it was not the biggest driving force behind success in business and the creation of wealth.
Tom Maher
7 years 10 months ago
The Sunday NT Times magazine article "is your religion your financial destiny?" with data from a 2007 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey is very worthwhile.  

The graph with the article shows that the percentage of Catholics with income of 75,000 and above is just above the average of 31% for all Americans with this income level.

And it also shows the percentage of Catholics with income of 75,000 and above is just below the average of 28 percent of College Graduates for all Americans.

So Catholics in this income group have the same percentage of people making this income and having a college degree as the national average of all Americans.

This would mean that Catholics in this income group would be more variable than the same income group for almsot all other religion.  This larege variablity may explain why there is such large differences in opinion in American magazine comments.  Catholics are less likely than most religious groups to have the same education and income.  Catholics are very different as a group in income and education and therefore their world view would likely to be very different.  

Funny though I seem to remeber other surveys showing Catholics had signficantly above average educational attainments.    But the Pew survey shows only 31% of Catholics with incomes of 75,000 and over.  In other words contrary to other religious groups more higher earning Catholics do not have college degrees.  This collation of facts seems to suggest that Catholic college graduates as a group are less likely to proportionally attain the same income as other religious groups. 

Is this so? And if so, why is that? Are Catholcs with  college degrees income underachievers? 

7 years 10 months ago
I you subscribe to the theory that intelligence is partially determined by genetics then google
''Ashkenazi intelligence'' 

The first hit is a Wikipedia article giving the various explanations for Jewish above average intelligence.
Tom Maher
7 years 10 months ago

If you blinked you would have missed what the current demographic meaning of of "U.S. "Catholic" is.

 The composotion of who is a "Catholics" in the United States" has radically changed even in the last decade and definitely over the last several decades.  Comparing Catholics now to the 1950s or even the 1980s is meaningless the Catholic demographic has changed so much.

This is due primarily to the surge in the Hispanic population in the United States.  A very large percentage, even most,  Hispanics consider themselves Catholics.   Accordingly the "Catholic' demographic has shifted even more profoundly .  The meaning of "Catholic" as a group is now radically different than ever before.  

In the last ten years the 2010 Census report the number of Hispanics in the U.S. has increase by a hugh 43%.  Accordinly Hispanics as a part of Catholic population of the U.S. demogrphics has surged even more since Hispanics are mostly Catholic.  

A quick check with another survery from Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life for current"Portrait of Catholics" demographics shows 29% of Catholics are Hispanic. (And this is probably dated since this population is surging.)   The 2010 census shows Hispanics or Lationo to be only 16.3 percent of the U.S. popopulation.

So what we have here is a radical change of demograhpic compostion of who is Cahtolic in the United States.  My ovbservation that the Pew Forum survey characteristics for Catholics was highly variable and not as I remeber them is the understatement of the century. 
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 10 months ago
I have to differ with the assertion that science, especially physics, derives strongly from critical/analytical thought.  More important, in my opinion, is creativity and imagination, along with being adept at mathematics, of course.  My Catholic school education did not strongly emphasize science and mathematics.  My interest in science and engineering was early and spontaneous but, again, was not abetted by my Catholic education.  The verbal skills training was great and this may explain the lawyers and judges.

Bill Collier
7 years 10 months ago
Maybe there's some truth to Catholic education stressing the liberal arts overs science, but there are many famous and/or highly-respected Catholic scientists (in no particular order);

Roger Bacon
Francis Bacon
Johannes Kepler
Gregor Mendel
Louis Pasteur
Teilhard de Chardin
Fr. George Lemaitre (father of the Big Bang theory)
Fr. Stanley Jaki (physicist; Templeton Prize winner)
Fr. George Coyne (astronomer)
Fr. Guy Consolmagno (astronomer)

I'm sure a thorough internet search would reveal many more Catholics who have excelled in the sciences.



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