Confirmed: Faithful Folk are More Generous

Are religious people more generous than secular people? 

Research says yes.

In March 2007, the Culture and Media Institute presented the results of its National Cultural Values Survey, which found that religiously observant people are more committed to helping the less fortunate and giving back to their communities than people with secular philosophies. 

Two papers presented at an October 4 Heritage Foundation conference in WashingtonD.C., “Religious Practice and Civic Life: What the Research Says,” complement these findings by reporting that attendance at religious services is an important indicator of commitment to volunteering.  

Dr. Carson Mencken and Dr. Christopher Bader of BaylorUniversity presented the findings of their study, “Volunteering and Religion: Evidence from the Baylor Religion Survey,” as did Dr. Marc A. Musick from the University of Texas at Austin, author of “Religious Service Attendance and Volunteering.”

Mencken and Bader found that weekly attendees of religious services are more likely to volunteer than non-attendees, both through their church and independent of their church.  Women volunteer more than men and young people volunteer more than the elderly. 

However, regular attendance at religious services was a significant indicator for men, the elderly, the highest income earners and those whose highest degree is a high school diploma. That is, the more regular their church attendance, the more these groups volunteered. 

While Musick concluded that regular attendance at religious services is primary indicator in volunteering, he also examined whether volunteering is driven by values or by opportunities to serve. 

Musick determined that opportunities are a major influence of volunteering in both religious and secular settings, and that volunteering can lead to other volunteer opportunities.  Values, Musick found, are an indicator for volunteering, but the effect is weak and inconsistent. 

Colleen Raezler is research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.