Religious Giving

The following is an excerpt from “More about Generosity: An Addendum to the Generosity, Social Psychology and Philanthropy Literature Reviews,” (University of Notre Dame, July 7, 2009).

Ahmed, Ali M., and Osvaldo Salas. 2009. “Is the hand of God involved in human cooperation?” International Journal of Social Economics 36(1-2):70-80.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the supernatural punishment theory. The theory postulates that religion increases cooperation because religious people fear the retributions that may follow if they do not follow the rules and norms provided by the religion. The paper reports results for a public goods experiment conducted in India, Mexico, and Sweden. By asking participants whether they are religious or not, one can study whether religiosity has an effect on voluntary cooperation in the public goods game. No significant behavioral differences were found between religious and nonreligious participants in the experiment.

Berger, Ida E. 2006. “The influence of religion on philanthropy in Canada.” Voluntas 17(2):110-127

Recognition of the multi-cultural nature of the Canadian population has led companies across a wide array of business domains to reach beyond their traditional bases of support to focus on hitherto untapped communities as potential markets for their goods and services. Competitive conditions within the voluntary sector have pushed nonprofits along this same path. However, no systematic Canadian research reports on the attitudes, social norms, benefits sought, expectations, opportunities, experiences, or behaviors of sub-communities in the voluntary sector. This paper examines philanthropic behavior by religion using data from the Statistics Canada 2000 National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating. The paper compares and contrasts the voluntary and philanthropic behaviors of the Canadian population across religious groups; compares and contrasts the motivations for and perceived impediments against such behaviors; and articulates and examines a model that traces the influence of religion on voluntary and philanthropic behavior in Canada’s multi-cultural society.

Clain, Susan Heller, and Charles Zech. 2008. “Determinants of the allocation of volunteer time: Church-related versus other non-market activities.” Atlantic Economic Journal 36(4):455-467.

This paper analyzes the relative time allocation decisions of individuals who volunteer time to a religious institution. The most important factor influencing the amount of time spent in church ministry relative to other non-market activities is educational attainment. In general, religious volunteers who are college-educated are significantly more likely to spend relatively more time working in church ministry than devoting time to family responsibilities, engaging in spiritual practices, or volunteering time to civic/community organizations. The presence of school-aged children tends to diminish the relative amount of time spent volunteering in church ministry. The findings of this study suggest church ministry perceived as being child-friendly or strengthening one’s spirituality is more likely to attract relatively greater time commitments from its volunteers.

Ecklund, Elaine Howard, and Jerry Z. Park. 2007. “Religious diversity and community volunteerism among Asian Americans.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 46(2):233-244.

We examine whether religious membership and participation foster community volunteerism among a religiously diverse group of Asian Americans. We use data from the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey (SCCBS), the only data set that contains both a large, national sample of Asian Americans and detailed questions on religious and civic participation. Asian-American Protestants, Catholics, and adherents of non-Christian religions are involved in community volunteerism to varying degrees. Surprisingly, however, fewer Hindus and Buddhists volunteer when compared to the nonaffiliated. We use these results to propose theoretical concepts that take into account the impact of a religion’s structure as well as the double-minority status faced by nonwhite and non-Christian Asian Americans on the likelihood of volunteering. Our findings indicate that accepted predictors of community volunteerism may operate differently among new nonwhite immigrants and their children than in the general U.S. population; this provides building blocks for future research on religion and civic participation among nonwhite and non-Christian populations.

Elisha, Omri. 2008. “Moral ambitions of grace: The paradox of compassion and accountability in evangelical faith-based activism.” Cultural Anthropology 23(1):154-189.

Based on fieldwork in Knoxville, Tennessee, I analyze the ethical dilemmas of conservative evangelical Protestants engaged in faith-based activism and social outreach, especially dilemmas stemming from the theological paradox of compassion and accountability. Evangelicals who minister to the poor and distressed must reconcile romanticized notions of pure sacrificial giving with an ideology of personal responsibility inherent in their concept of accountability. Socially engaged evangelicals struggle with competing moral ambitions and religious imperatives that derive meaning from an overarching rubric of Christian evangelism, in which gifts of divine grace are seen as creating reciprocal obligations as well as insurmountable debt on the part of recipients. The outreach efforts of suburban churchgoers are further complicated by unequal power dynamics between charitable givers and charity recipients. While exploring the complexities of a vernacular theology through which socially engaged evangelicals wrestle with these issues, I discuss theoretical and political implications of the case study, including the role of activism in shaping religious identities and the resurgence of religious conservatism in U.S. civil society and public culture.

French, Doran C., Nancy Eisenberg, Julie Vaughan, Urip Purwono, and Telie A. Suryanti. 2008. “Religious involvement and the social competence and adjustment of Indonesian Muslim adolescents.” Developmental Psychology 44(2):597-611.

This study assessed the relation between religious involvement and multiple indices of competence in 183 eighth- and ninth-grade Indonesian Muslim adolescents (M = 13.3 years). The authors assessed spirituality and religiosity using both parent and adolescent reports, and social competence and adjustment using multiple measures and data sources. Structural equation modeling analyses revealed that parent and adolescent reports of religiosity and spirituality yielded a single religious involvement latent variable that was related to peer group status, academic achievement, emotional regulation, prosocial behavior, antisocial/problem behavior, internalizing behavior, and self-esteem. The consistency of relations between religious involvement and competence may be in part attributable to the collectivist context of religion in West Java, Indonesia, within which people exhibit strong beliefs in Islam and religion permeates daily life.

Gruber, Jonathan, and Daniel M. Hungerman. 2008. “The church versus the mall: What happens when religion faces increased secular competition?” Quarterly Journal of Economics 123(2):184-195.

Recently economists have begun to consider the causes and consequences of religious participation. An unanswered question in this literature is the effect upon individuals of changes in the opportunity cost of religious participation. In this paper, we identify a policy-driven change in the opportunity cost of religious participation based on state laws that prohibit retail activity on Sunday, known as “blue laws.” Many states have repealed these laws in recent years, raising the opportunity cost of religious participation. We use a variety of data sets to show that when a state repeals its blue laws religious attendance falls and that church donations and spending fall as well. These results do not seem to be driven by declines in religiosity prior to the law change, nor do we see comparable declines in membership in or giving to nonreligious organizations after a state repeals its laws. We then assess the effects of changes in these laws on drinking and drug use behavior in the NLSY. We find that repealing blue laws leads to an increase in drinking and drug use and that this increase is found only among the initially religious individuals who were affected by the blue laws. The effect is economically significant; for example, the gap in heavy drinking between religious and nonreligious individuals falls by about half after the laws are repealed.

Hungerman, Daniel M. 2008. “Race and charitable church activity.” Economic Inquiry 46(3):380-400.

The availability of public funding for charitable church activity has increased dramatically in recent years. A key dispute over this increase is whether congregations’ propensity to provide charitable services depends upon the local community’s racial composition. Using three congregation-level data sets, this article investigates how race affects charitable church activity. Each data set indicates that all-white congregations become less charitably active as the share of black residents in the community grows. This response is found only for charitable activities and not for other activities. Additionally, all-white congregations favorably disposed toward receiving government funding respond no differently to black residents than do not-all-white congregations.
James, Russell N., III, and Deanna L. Sharpe. 2007. “The ‘sect effect’ in charitable giving: Distinctive realities of exclusively religious charitable givers.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 66:697-726.
An examination of the charitable giving behavior of 16,442 households reveals intriguing patterns consistent with the club-theoretic approach to religious sect affiliation. The club-theoretic model suggests that individuals with lower socioeconomic standing will rationally be more likely to align themselves with exclusivistic sects. Because sect affiliation is also associated with more obligatory religious contributions, this approach generates novel predictions not anticipated by standard economic models of charitable behavior. Traditional analysis of charitable giving can mask the “sect effect” phenomenon, as low-income giving is dwarfed by the giving of the wealthy. However, the application of a two-stage econometric model — separating the participation decision from the subsequent decision regarding the level of gifting — provides unique insights. Basic socioeconomic factors have significant and opposite associations with different categories of giving, calling into question the treatment of charitable giving as a homogenous activity and supporting the understanding of sect affiliation, and potentially religious extremism, as rational choice phenomena. Adapted from the source document.

Kochuyt, Thierry. 2009. “God, gifts, and poor people: On charity in Islam.” Social Compass 56(1):98-116.

Islam asks the faithful to help the poor. Outlining the ideal type of this religious charity—known as the zakat—the author will analyse these alms as gifts. After identifying those who contribute and those who are eligible, he moves on to the beneficial effects of this solidarity. To assess the social mechanisms by which the community of faith is being built, the author refers throughout the article to the writings of Mauss, Sahlins and Bourdieu as regards gift giving and reciprocity. This analytical input permits him eventually to develop a triadic model of religiously-inspired charity that includes the divine protagonist who asks us to be generous.
Koenig, Laura B., Matt McGue, Robert F. Krueger, and Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr. 2007. “Religiousness, antisocial behavior, and altruism: Genetic and environmental mediation.” Journal of Personality 75:265-290.
Although religiousness is considered a protective factor against antisocial behaviors and a positive influence on prosocial behaviors, it remains unclear whether these associations are primarily genetically or environmentally mediated. In order to investigate this question, religiousness, antisocial behavior, and altruistic behavior were assessed by self-report in a sample of adult male twins (165 MZ and 100 DZ full pairs, mean age of 33 years). Religiousness, both retrospective and current, was shown to be modestly negatively correlated with antisocial behavior and modestly positively correlated with altruistic behavior. Joint biometric analyses of religiousness and antisocial behavior or altruistic behavior were completed. The relationship between religiousness and antisocial behavior was due to both genetic and shared environmental effects. Altruistic behavior also shared most all of its genetic influence, but only half of its shared environmental influence, with religiousness.

Krause, Neil. 2009. “Church-based volunteering, providing informal support at church, and self-rated health later in life.” Journal of Aging and Health 21(1):63-84.

To assess the relationships among volunteer work at church, providing informal support to fellow church members, religious commitment, and change in self-rated health over time. Method: Data are obtained from a nationwide longitudinal sample of 681 older adults. The study participants are aged 66 years or older at the baseline interview. The between-round interval was 6 years. Results: The findings suggest that providing informal tangible support to fellow church members is associated with better health but only for study participants who were more deeply committed to their faith. In contrast, a comparable interaction effect between volunteer work at church and religious commitment do not emerge from the data. Discussion: Although older people may assist others in different ways within the church, the informal assistance they provide to coreligionists appears to be more strongly associated with health when they are more deeply committed to their faith.

Malhotra, Deepak. 2008. “(When) Are religious people nicer? Religious salience and the “Sunday effect” on prosocial behavior. Working Paper No. 09-066, Havard Business School, Cambridge, MA.

Prior research has found mixed evidence for the long-theorized link between religiosity and pro-social behavior. To help overcome this divergence, we hypothesize that pro-social behavior is linked not to religiosity per se, but rather to the salience of religion and religious norms. We report on a field experiment that examines when auction participants will respond to an appeal to continue bidding for secular charitable causes. The results reveal that religious individuals are more likely than non-religious individuals to respond to an appeal “for charity” only on days that they visit their place of worship; on other days of the week, religiosity has no effect. Notably, the result persists after controlling for a host of factors that may influence bidding, but disappears when the appeal “for charity” is replaced by an appeal to bid for other reasons. Implications for the link between religion and pro-social behavior are discussed.

Monsma, Steven V. 2007. “Religion and philanthropic giving and volunteering: Building blocks for civic responsibility.” Interdisciplinary Journal for Research on Religion 3.

This article systematizes the findings of previous studies of religion and philanthropic giving and volunteering, contributes to the theoretical understanding of the role religion plays in philanthropic giving and volunteering, and relates the conjunction of religion and philanthropic giving and volunteering to a polity marked by democratic norms. It does so by reviewing the findings of previously published studies and using existing datasets to examine key questions for which earlier studies have had inconsistent findings or that they have not studied. It examines the social network and religious belief theories for explaining the conjunction between religion and philanthropic giving and volunteering and concludes that both help to explain this conjunction but that social network theory is the stronger explanatory theory. It also documents a positive relationship among religiosity, giving and volunteering, and other marks of civic responsibility and concludes that people who are marked by high levels of religiosity come closer to the democratic norm of civic responsibility than do those with low levels of religiosity.

Norenzayan, Ara, and Azim F. Shariff. 2008. “The origin and evolution of religious prosociality.” Science 322:58-62.

We examine empirical evidence for religious prosociality, the hypothesis that religions facilitate costly behaviors that benefit other people. Although sociological surveys reveal an association between self-reports of religiosity and prosociality, experiments measuring religiosity and actual prosocial behavior suggest that this association emerges primarily in contexts where reputational concerns are heightened. Experimentally induced religious thoughts reduce rates of cheating and increase altruistic behavior among anonymous strangers. Experiments demonstrate an association between apparent profession of religious devotion and greater trust. Cross-cultural evidence suggests an association between the cultural presence of morally concerned deities and large group size in humans. We synthesize converging evidence from various fields for religious prosociality, address its specific boundary conditions, and point to unresolved questions and novel predictions.

Ranganathan, Sampath Kumar, and Walter H. Henley. 2008. “Determinants of charitable donation intentions: A structural equation model.” International Journal of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Marketing 13(1):1-11.

Currently charities have to depend more on individual donors and less on the government for funding. Hence, understanding the individual donor and what motivates them to contribute to charities is something, which has been of increasing interest to nonprofit marketers. In this article, a path model for the charitable donation process of a religious individual is developed and tested. The variables that are used in the model are religiosity, attitude towards helping others (AHO), attitude towards charitable organizations (AGO), attitude towards the advertisement (Attad) and behavioral intentions (BI). The results suggest that AHO by itself does not cause BI. Altruistic people need to be targeted with an appropriate advertisement message. Since religiosity is an important causal variable for AHO, segmenting and targeting individuals who are religious would be pertinent. Attempts to build favorable AGO would also be worthwhile.

Ruiter, Stign, and Nan Dirk De Graf. 2006. “National Context, Religiosity, and Volunteering,” American Sociological Review 71(2): 191-210.

Scharffs, Brett G. 2007. “Towards a framework for understanding charitable and economic activities of churches: The U.S. example.” Religious Studies Review 1(4):61-74.

The paper address three principal topics: first, characteristics and patterns of charitable giving and volunteerism in the United States and their relationship to religion; second, the charitable activities of churches, again focusing on a U.S. perspective; and third, the regulatory framework governing the economic activities of churches and other charities in the United States.

Shariff, Azim, and Ara Norenzayan. 2007. “God is watching you: Priming God concepts increases prosocial behavior in an anonymous economic game.” Psychological Science 18(9):803-809.

We present two studies aimed at resolving experimentally whether religion increases prosocial behavior in the anonymous dictator game. Subjects allocated more money to anonymous strangers when God concepts were implicitly activated than when neutral or no concepts were activated. This effect was at least as large as that obtained when concepts associated with secular moral institutions were primed. A trait measure of self-reported religiosity did not seem to be associated with prosocial behavior. We discuss different possible mechanisms that may underlie this effect, focusing on the hypotheses that the religious prime had an ideomotor effect on generosity or that it activated a felt presence of supernatural watchers. We then discuss implications for theories positing religion as a facilitator of the emergence of early large-scale societies of cooperators.