Monday, February 16, 2009

Importance of Religion in Daily Life

Earlier we looked briefly at Gallup's latest poll about the importance of religion in daily life. There were some questions about how religion is related to income, so I went ahead and made the following graph:

Gallup's survey results for states are here, and I used state median income from the Census Department's American Community Survey. One reporter picked up on the link between religion and income (AFP) - thanks for the link Steve. Note that the relationship tends to hold between nation-states as well, with the US as the well known exception.

I would simply urge caution in interpreting the graph above. It does not imply that religion causes poverty or vice-versa. In fact it says nothing about causality. All it is showing is a relation between two variables. As you can see there is a clear downward trend indicating that as people's median incomes increase the importance of religion in their daily lives tends to decrease, ceteris paribus. As Ronald Inglehart has noted, religion can instill values that shape a nation over a long period even as religion itself becomes less important in daily life.

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