Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Gruber of MIT: Religion is Good for You

Via Andrew Sullivan, a post quoting a paper by MIT professor Jonathan Gruber that looks at the number of religious people around you to find out if you'll be "better off":
"People living in an area with a higher density of co-religionists have higher incomes, they are less likely to be high school dropouts, and more likely to have a college degree."
His new findings about religion seem both provocative and common-sensical at the same time. It reminds me of how I felt in Labor Economics class back at MIT when he presented this question about higher education: Do people actually learn anything in college, or are college degrees simply a "filtering mechanism" - a way to distinguish those with ability and good backgrounds from everybody else?

Now here's a thought: Perhaps Americans get through religion what Europeans get through shared ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This "togetherness" might serve Europeans in ways similar to how Gruber thinks religion serves Americans:
Although this paper does not investigate the mechanism through which religiosity creates these results, Gruber suggests four possibilities: that religious attendance increases the number of social interactions in a way peculiar to religious settings; that religious institutions provide financial and emotional "insurance" that help people mitigate their losses when setbacks occur; that attendance at religious schools may be an advantage; and, finally, that religious faith may simply improve well-being directly by enabling the faithful to be "less stressed out" by the problems of every day life.

No comments: