Religion and poverty

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This article examines the relationship between religion and poverty in the United States. It analyzes the most and least religious states in the United States, potential reasons for high church attendance, the most poverty stricken states in the United States, potential factors of poverty, and religious institutions that are geared toward helping poverty.

Religiosity in the United States[edit]

According to a poll done by Gallup, the most religious states are those that are located in the "Bible Belt" and Utah. The data is compiled based on weekly church attendance and people saying that they attend church "At least once a week." Based on their results, here is a list of the most and least religious states in the United States is below.[1] The 3rd chart includes a map of the United States based on religiosity.

Top 10 States, Church Attendance

Bottom 10 States,_Church_Attendance_2

Potential reasons for high Church attendance[edit]

Information based on a 2011 study done by Hartford Institute for Religion Research says that megachurches play a big role in church attendance. As can be seen from the chart below, the major areas in the United States with megachurches are the south and the far west. It is important to note that some of the areas with the most percentages of megachurches are actually in the bottom states for weekly church attendance.[2]

Most poverty stricken states in the United States[edit]

Here is a list of U.S. states by poverty rate, ranking from 1st to 50th. A study done by economists from Harvard and UC Berkeley claims that religious communities provide a source of social capital. It continues on to say that this social capital is likely to affect income inequality.[3] One theory, presented by Dr. Tom Rees through an independent study conducted by himself, is that personal insecurities, or the lack of being secure, correlates directly with religiosity.[4] He also suggests that in these poverty stricken areas, churches are popular places to go to get help with basic needs such as food or clothing.[5]

Potential Factors of Poverty[edit]

According to Princeton University, poverty is unique because it started to decrease around the 60's and 70's, but since then has had an uneven pattern of growth. A few factors that they mention that contribute to poverty are the economy, changes in family composition, and changes in government spending. From these factors, they mention some sub-factors such as wage inequality, unemployment, single parent households, and government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and other groups that compensate for unemployment.[6]

Allan G. Johnson, author of "The Forest and the Trees" claims that one potential factor is our system of wealth. He argues that our system allows too much power for the elite to be successful and leaves the rest of the population to share what little amount of wealth is left. He uses a game of musical chairs as an analogy: "Since the game is set up with fewer chairs than there are people, someone has to wind up without a place to sit when the music stops."[7]

Religious Institutions Helping Poverty[edit]

There are certain religious organizations that claim to help with poverty. Some deal specifically with national poverty here in the United States, and others deal with international poverty all over the globe. According to TakePart, some of the top non-profit organizations helping fight poverty today are: Feeding America, KIVA, ONE, Oxfam, Jubilee USA, Mercy Corps, and The Hunger Project.[8]


  1. ^ "Frequent Church Attendance Highest in Utah, Lowest in Vermont". Retrieved 2015-12-16.
  2. ^ "2011 Summary Research Report of A New Decade of Megachurches". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  3. ^ "Religion and Income Inequality: The Paradox of the South". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  4. ^ "Research shows link between poverty gap and religious belief". British Humanist Association. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  5. ^ "Why Are the Poor More Religious? -". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  6. ^ "- The Future of Children -". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  7. ^ "Why Is There Poverty?". Allan G. Johnson. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  8. ^ "Top 10 Non-Profits Fighting Poverty". TakePart. Retrieved 2015-12-17.