America’s Economy (and Social Programs): Fueled by Faith

Economic impact of religion

The Bible tells us that without faith we cannot please God. Here’s something else the loss of faith would do: leave a $1.2 trillion hole in the U.S. economy.

Religion in the United States is worth $1.2 trillion a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world, according to a study out of Georgetown University.

The numbers alone are staggering but here’s a correlation that can’t be ignored—the faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the U.S., including Apple, Amazon and Google.

To arrive at the valuation, researchers Brian Grim of Georgetown University and Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute made three estimates of the quantitative economic value of faith to American society.

The first estimate took into account only the revenues of faith-based organizations, which came to $378 billion annually. The second estimate, $1.2 trillion, included the fair market value of goods and services provided by religious organizations and included contributions of businesses with religious roots.

The third, higher-end, estimate of $4.8 trillion takes into account the household incomes of religiously affiliated Americans, assuming that they conduct their affairs according to their religious beliefs.

More than 150 million Americans, almost half the population, are members of faith congregations, according to the report titled “Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis.” Although numbers are declining, the sums spent by religious organizations on social programs have tripled in the past 15 years.

Twenty of the top 50 charities in the U.S. are faith-based, with a combined operating revenue of $45.3 billion.

Economic Impact of Religion Helps Whole Society

The study’s authors emphasize that “religion is a highly significant sector of the American economy” because it “provides purpose-driven institutional and economic contributions to health, education, social cohesion, social services, media, food and business itself.”

“Perhaps most significantly,” the study adds, “religion helps set Americans free to do good by harnessing the power of millions of volunteers from nearly 345,000 diverse congregations present in every corner of the country’s urban and rural landscape.”

The research used findings from the Pew Research Center that show two-thirds of highly religious adults had donated money, time or goods to the poor in the previous week, compared with 41 percent of adults who said they were not highly religious.

The authors conclude: “The faith sector is undoubtedly a significant component of the overall American economy, impacting and involving the lives of the majority of the U.S. population.”

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Bob Ditmer
Bob Ditmer has worked in Christian media for more than 20 years including positions with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Focus on the Family.

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