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The Greying Church: The Impact of Life Expectancy on Religiosity

Author

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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Elissaios Papyrakis & Geethanjali Selvaretnam, 2009. "The Greying Church: The Impact of Life Expectancy on Religiosity," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 200912, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
  • Handle: RePEc:san:wpecon:0912
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    File URL: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~wwwecon/papers/dp0912.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. McCleary, Rachel & Barro, Robert, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth across Countries," Scholarly Articles 3708464, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    2. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert, 1999. "The Quality of Government," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 222-279, April.
    3. 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.
    4. Gallup, J.L. & Sachs, J.D. & Mullinger, A., 1999. "Geography and Economic Development," Papers 1, Chicago - Graduate School of Business.
    5. John Luke Gallup & Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew D. Mellinger, 1999. "Geography and Economic Development," International Regional Science Review, , vol. 22(2), pages 179-232, August.
    6. John Luke Gallup & Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew Mellinger, 1999. "Geography and Economic Development," CID Working Papers 1, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    7. repec:hrv:faseco:30747160 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Rachel M. McCleary & Robert J. Barro, 2006. "Religion and Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 49-72, Spring.
    9. World Bank, 2009. "World Development Indicators 2009," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 4367.
    10. 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.
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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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    religiosity; life expectancy; church attendance;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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