Are Poorest States Also Most Religious?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Mathiston, Mississippi (photo: Steve Garufi)

Does lack of income drive people to church? Data compiled by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the U.S. Census Bureau would indicate a correlation between high levels of poverty and large concentrations of religious Americans. For instance, the Pew Forum lists Mississippi as the most religious state, with 82% saying religion is very important in their lives. The state also has the highest percentage of poor people in the country (20.8%).

No. 2 in terms of poverty is Louisiana (17.6%), which ranks fourth on the religious scale. With the exception of Oklahoma, the rest of the top 10 most religious states are all found in the South: Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky. All of these states rank near the top for highest concentrations of poor people, ranging from 14.6% to 17.3%.
At the other end of the scale, New Hampshire, which has the lowest poverty level, also has the lowest percentage of citizens for whom religion is very important: 36% (when combined with Vermont). The second least religious state, Alaska, has the fifth lowest poverty rate.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
How Religious Is Your State? (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life)


Victor Yougo 5 years ago
I don't think it's a matter of poverty driving people into churches. I think it has more to do with religious people being statistically less well educated and hence having poorer earning potential
Dan 13 years ago
Based on the Pew study and the US Census data cited in this article, I put together this figure. Iteresting.
antropovni 13 years ago
If there is any correlation, it is along the lines of the Pew Global Attitudes survey of a few years ago ( that indicated an inverse relationship between religiosity (importance of faith, daily prayer) and income--with the decided exception of the US (high religiosity, high income). This inverse correlation to wealth may have less to do with the importance of religion as the personal beliefs/practices of poor people individually and more to do with the centrality of religious institutions in the social life of poor societies (as provider of both meaning and social services).

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