New figures from Gallup examine the link between religion and income. Based on results from asking the question “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”, it appears that religion is more important to the daily lives of those in poorer countries:
This reflects the strong relationship between a country’s socioeconomic status and the religiosity of its residents. In the world’s poorest countries — those with average per-capita incomes of $2,000 or lower — the median proportion who say religion is important in their daily lives is 95%. In contrast, the median for the richest countries — those with average per-capita incomes higher than $25,000 — is 47%.
Why exactly this is the case is briefly explored:
Social scientists have put forth numerous possible explanations for the relationship between the religiosity of a population and its average income level. One theory is that religion plays a more functional role in the world’s poorest countries, helping many residents cope with a daily struggle to provide for themselves and their families. A previous Gallup analysis supports this idea, revealing that the relationship between religiosity and emotional wellbeing is stronger among poor countries than among those in the developed world.
However, there are several countries that don’t fit the relationship:
The United States is one of the rich countries that bucks the trend. About two-thirds of Americans — 65% — say religion is important in their daily lives. Among high-income countries, only Italians, Greeks, Singaporeans, and residents of the oil-rich Persian Gulf states are more likely to say religion is important.
Figures like these provide more data to be interpreted within the secularization debate in sociol0gy. Briefly put, the theory of secularization suggests that the importance of religion in institutional life and personal life diminishes as a society or people become more modern. On one hand, this trend Gallup finds seems to support the theory: as countries become wealthier and generally join the industrialized/developed world, the need for religion diminishes. On the other hand, there are countries that don’t fit the trend. The United States is usually discussed as the primary exception but there are other nations with other religious traditions that also don’t fit.
For a graphical representation of the data, check out this New York Times piece.