A recent study quantified the economic impact of religious institutions and religion-related businesses throughout the U.S.
The study, entitled “The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis,” is the first of its kind and was conducted by Brian Grim of Georgetown University and Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute. They held a panel event at the National Press Club on Sept. 14, 2016 to reveal their groundbreaking study.
“For the first time, we have been able to quantify what religious institutions, faith-based charities and even businesses inspired by faith contribute to our country,” Grim said at a Sept. 14 panel. “In an age where there’s a growing belief that religion is not a positive for American society, adding up the numbers is a tangible reminder of the impact of religion.”
According to the study, religion contributes nearly $1.2 trillion to the US economy. Congregations and religiously-oriented charity groups contributed 130,000 programs for alcohol and drug abuse recovery, 121,000 programs for support or skills training for unemployed adults and 94,000 programs to support veterans and their families.
“People at various times have various needs,” said church history professor Richard Holzapfel. “You have church that is relieving the pressure on state institutions.”
Holzapfel said religion offers a substantial amount of support for character development, which cannot always be calculated. However, he said this development can be seen in the LDS Church through missions, the counseling offered to individuals through bishops and church programs addressing various struggles.
“What would that cost the state if the church didn’t provide those services?” Holzapfel said. “It would be massive. We would overwhelm the welfare department, the juvenile court systems; the impact must be tremendous.”
Faith Counts, a multi-faith non-profit organization promoting the value of faith, sponsored the study. According to the “Faith by the Numbers” video on their website, religion institutions are not just houses of workshop, but the “nucleus of many communities, centers for education, job training, charity, childcare and social events.”
The video also states that religious institutions fund over 1.5 million social programs. Hunter Buxton, an economics major, was surprised by the findings.
“I had no idea,” Buxton said. “That’s not something you hear about a lot in economic circles of news.”
Buxton said this study and influence on religion should be talked about more because it could “definitely benefit the way America sees religions in general.”
More information about this study can be found on the Faith Counts website.