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)

Comments

Victor Yougo 1 year 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 9 years ago
Based on the Pew study and the US Census data cited in this article, I put together this figure. http://imgur.com/JyQVs.jpg Iteresting.
antropovni 9 years ago
If there is any correlation, it is along the lines of the Pew Global Attitudes survey of a few years ago (http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=258) 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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