Religion and Wealth: The Role of Religious Affiliation and Participation in Early Adult Asset Accumulation
Researchers have documented extreme inequalities in wealth ownership, but the processes that create these inequalities are not well understood. One important contributing factor that attracts little attention is religion. This study explores the relationship between religious participation, religious affiliation, and patterns of wealth accumulation. I argue that religion affects wealth ownership indirectly by shaping demographic behaviors. I also argue that religion directly influences wealth accumulation by identifying valuable goals, by providing a set of competencies that direct strategies of action, and by contributing to social contacts that provide information and opportunities that can enhance wealth ownership. The findings suggest that Jews enjoy tremendous gains in wealth ownership, while conservative Protestants accumulate relatively little wealth. In contrast, mainline Protestants and Catholics are indistinguishable from each other and from the general population. The results demonstrate the importance of family processes in shaping wealth accumulation, and they underscore the importance of culture in shaping economic behavior and ultimately in creating social inequality.
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