Wealth and religion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The average annual income of countries correlates negatively with national levels of religiosity.[1]

The correlation between wealth and religion has been subject to academic research. Wealth is the status of being the beneficiary or proprietor of a large accumulation of capital and economic power. Religion is a socio-cultural system that often involves belief in supernatural forces and may intend to provide a moral system or a meaning to life. As of 2015, Christians hold the largest share of global wealth, at around 55%.[2]



According to a study from 2015, Christians hold the largest amount of wealth (55% of the total world wealth), followed by Muslims (5.8%), Hindus (3.3%), and Jews (1.1%). According to the same study it was found that adherents under the classification "Irreligion", or other religions, hold about 34.8% of the total global wealth.[3][4]

A study done by the nonpartisan wealth research firm New World Wealth found that 56.2% of the 13.1 million millionaires in the world were Christians, while 6.5% were Muslims, 3.9% were Hindu, and 1.7% were Jewish; 31.7% were identified as adherents of "other" religions or "not religious".[5][6]

United States[edit]

A chart illustrating income by religious grouping in the US in 2001

A study in the United States (based on data from 1985 to 1998), conducted by the sociologist Lisa A. Keister and published in the Social Forces journal, found that adherents of Judaism and Episcopalianism[7] accumulated the most wealth, believers in Catholicism and mainline Protestants were in the middle, while conservative Protestants accumulated the least; in general, people who attend religious services accumulated more wealth than those who do not (taking into account variations of education and other factors).[8] Keister suggested that wealth accumulation is shaped by family processes.[9] According to the study, the median net worth of people believing in Judaism is calculated at 150,890 USD, while the median net worth of conservative Protestants (including Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Scientists) was US$26,200. The overall median in the dataset was US$48,200.

Some of the wealthiest and most affluent American families such as the Vanderbilts, Astors, Rockefellers,[10] Du Ponts, Roosevelts, Forbes, Fords,[10] Mellons,[10] Whitneys, Morgans, and Harrimans are white primarily mainline Protestant families.[11]

Another study in the United States, from 2012, stated that 48% of Hindus had a household income of $100,000 or more, and 70% make at least $75,000, which is the highest among all religions in United States.[12]

According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, Jewish again ranked as the most financially successful religious group in the United States, with 44% of Jews living in households with incomes of at least $100,000, followed by Hindu (36%), Episcopalians (35%), and Presbyterians (32%).[13] Amongst Jews, in 2016, Modern Orthodox Jews had a median household income of $158,000, while Open Orthodoxy Jews had a median household income of $185,000 (compared to the American median household income of $59,000 in 2016).[14] According to the same study there is correlation between education and income, about 77% of American Hindus have an undergraduate degree followed by Jews (59%), Episcopalians (56%), and Presbyterians (47%).[15]


A study published in the American Journal of Sociology by Lisa Keister, found that "wealth affects religion indirectly through educational attainment, fertility, and female labor force participation" but also found some evidence of direct effects of religion on wealth attainment.[16] Keister notes that certain religious beliefs ("one should have many children", "women should not work") lower wealth accumulation, both on the micro- and macro-scale.[16][17]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ WIN-Gallup. "Global Index of religion and atheism" (PDF). Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  2. ^ "Christians hold largest percentage of global wealth: Report". Business Standard. Press Trust of India. January 14, 2015. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  3. ^ "Christians hold largest percentage of global wealth: Report". Deccan Herald. January 14, 2015. Archived from the original on 2017-03-23.
  4. ^ "Christians hold largest percentage of global wealth: Report". Business Standard. Press Trust of India. January 14, 2015. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  5. ^ Frank, Robert (January 14, 2015). "The religion of millionaires". CNBC. Retrieved 2022-10-28.
  6. ^ Pinsker, Alyssa (January 30, 2018). "I'm Not A Rich Jew — And I Hate The Stereotype". The Forward. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  7. ^ Allen 1975.
  8. ^ "Religion Helps Shape Wealth Of Americans, Study Finds". Researchnews.osu.edu. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
  9. ^ Keister 2003.
  10. ^ a b c W. Williams, Peter (2016). Religion, Art, and Money: Episcopalians and American Culture from the Civil War to the Great Depression. University of North Carolina Press. p. 176. ISBN 9781469626987. The names of fashionable families who were already Episcopalian, like the Morgans, or those, like the Fricks, who now became so, goes on interminably: Aldrich, Astor, Biddle, Booth, Brown, Du Pont, Firestone, Ford, Gardner, Mellon, Morgan, Procter, the Vanderbilt, Whitney. Episcopalians branches of the Baptist Rockefellers and Jewish Guggenheims even appeared on these family trees.
  11. ^ Ayres, B. Drummond Jr. (December 19, 2011). "The Episcopalians: an American Elite with Roots Going Back to Jamestown". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014.
  12. ^ "Asian Americans: A Mosaic of Faiths". 2012-07-19. Retrieved Dec 1, 2012.
  13. ^ "How income varies among U.S. religious groups". Pew Research Center. 2016-10-16.
  14. ^ 5 key takeaways, some surprising, from new survey of US Modern Orthodox Jews By BEN SALES 30 September 2017, JTA
  15. ^ "The most and least educated U.S. religious group". Pew Research Center. 2016-10-16.
  16. ^ a b Keister 2008.
  17. ^ Keister, Lisa A. (2 November 2011). "How Religion Contributes to Wealth and Poverty". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 November 2017.


Further reading[edit]