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The Greying Church: The Impact of Life Expectancy on Religiosity

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  • Elissaios Papyrakis
  • Geethanjali Selvaretnam

Abstract

Many churches are concerned about older and dwindling congregations. We develop a theoretical framework to explain not only the downward trend in church attendance, but also the increase in the proportion of older people in the congregations. Religiosity depends positively on the expected social and spiritual benefits attached to religious adherence, as well as the probability of entering heaven in the afterlife. While otherworldly compensation in terms of salvation and spiritual benefits motivates religiosity, the costs of formal religion in terms of time allocated to communal activities and foregone income work in the opposite direction. We show that higher life expectancy discounts expected benefits in the afterlife and is hence likely to lead to postponement of religiosity. For this reason, religious organizations should be prepared to attract older members to their congregations, while emphasizing contemporaneous religious benefits to increase overall church attendance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews in its series Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics with number 200912.

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Date of creation: 15 Oct 2009
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Handle: RePEc:san:wpecon:0912

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Keywords: religiosity; life expectancy; church attendance;

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  1. Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1998. "The Quality of Government," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1847, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. McCleary, Rachel & Barro, Robert, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth across Countries," Scholarly Articles 3708464, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Azzi, Corry & Ehrenberg, Ronald G, 1975. "Household Allocation of Time and Church Attendance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(1), pages 27-56, February.
  4. Rachel M. McCleary & Robert J. Barro, 2006. "Religion and Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 49-72, Spring.
  5. Lorna J. Philip & Alana Gilbert, 2007. "Low Income amongst the Older Population in Great Britain: A Rural/Non-rural Perspective on Income Levels and Dynamics," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(6), pages 735-746.
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Cited by:
  1. Pyne, Derek, 2013. "An afterlife capital model of religious choice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 32-44.

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