Religion as a Determinant of Economic and Demographic Behavior in the United States



This note reviews and synthesizes research on the effects of religion on various economic and demographic behaviors of individuals and families in the United States, including the choice of marital partner, union formation and dissolution, fertility, female time allocation, education, wages, and wealth. Using a theoretical framework based on Gary Becker's contributions to the economics of the family, it demonstrates that religious affiliation affects economic and demographic behavior because of its impact on the costs and benefits of many interrelated decisions that people make over the life cycle. In addition, for behaviors that pertain to married-couple households, religious affiliation matters because it is a complementary trait within the context of marriage. Religiosity, another dimension of religion, also affects economic and demographic outcomes, partly because it accentuates differences by religious affiliation, partly because religious involvement has generally beneficial effects on health and well-being.