The Almighty And The Dollar

The Economist relays the research of Vincent Showers about the spending habits of the religious:

Households “with a strong commitment to faith”— demonstrated by higher spending on religious activities—are less likely to be weighed down by excessive mortgage outgoings or loan payments for cars. Compared with other households, they are more likely to be home owners but their property tax burden tends to be less—suggesting that “some moderation in [the] selection of home in terms of extravagance or location….”

Devout households seem keener on mitigating risk and therefore spend more on life insurance and health insurance; they lay out less on alcohol and tobacco and more on domestic appliances, including cooking utensils. Such homely behaviour is most heavily correlated with religious belief in the American South and Midwest, which are also the regions with “the most conservative interpretation of scripture,” Mr Showers notes, in an article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. (The research more-or-less conflates the term “religious” with “Christian” or “Judeo-Christian” which in the American context is only a smallish distortion.)

But religious families do allow themselves some earthly pleasures. Indeed, they are if anything a little more likely than other households to spend spare money on clothing or jewellery, although the amount each household splurges on jewellery is a bit less. Some of that jewellery, of course, might be devotional: silver crosses or stars of David. They are as likely as anybody else to be spending money on child support or alimony—a proxy for failed marriages—and they are as inclined as other folk to incur interest payments on credit cards.