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Most Christian States Are Least Wealthy

Although Christianity in general has become less practiced in the United States over the last two decades, one form of Christianity claims to have become more popular. It’s the Prosperity Gospel, a theology that preaches that God will reward people who become Christian by making them financially wealthy.

This claim, unlike so many claims made by religion, is statistically testable. If there really is a God, and God really makes Christians more financially successful than they would otherwise be, we ought to be able to find statistics that show that Christians are more wealthy than nonChristians.

income christianity usaIn order to test the Prosperity Gospel hypothesis, I looked at a combination of two measures. First, I looked at the American Religious Identification Survey, released just a few weeks ago. The ARIS measured the rate of Christianity among residents of the lower 48 states. Then, I placed that information next to the average median income measured by the Census Bureau from 2005 through 2007, the most recent information available.

Placing these two sources together results in the scatter plot graph you see here:

Each blue dot represents one of the 48 contiguous states in the USA. Those further to the right are the more Christian states. Those higher on the graph are those states that have a higher average median wealth.

As you can see, there’s a pattern in the distribution of the states. Those states that have the highest percentage of Christian residents have the lowest median income.

The 10 states with the highest percentage of Christian residents had an average median income of $42,297.07. The 10 states with the lowest percentage of Christian residents had an average median income of $53,194.54. The 10 states with the lowest percent of Christians had on average a 65.1 percent Christian population. The 10 states with the highest percent of Christians had on average a 85.3 percent Christian population. So, you could argue that every percent increase in Christian population costs state residents on average about 500 dollars.

These statistics contradict the hypothesis underlying the preachers of the Prosperity Gospel. If you’re hoping to increase your income, or at least to weather the economic recession, seeking the divine intercession of God doesn’t seem to be the way to go.

42 comments to Most Christian States Are Least Wealthy

  • The prosperity theory is false, as you say. God may give one Christian great wealth while giving others simply what they need for their next meal. That is, on earth. As Christians, we are rewarded on earth by God’s direction, peace, joy, and love. In Heaven, we aqquire riches and joy. Statistics show that Christians are much more likely to be involved in the community positively and more likely to donate time and money to charities. That is because God wants us to love others, to share His love with the world. Christians are more likely to give, to help people.
    You do not become a Christian to get rich. Be wealthy does not make your life meaningful. You have no purpose unless you have God. God may bless you with fame and money if you are a Christian, like I have said, or he may choose to keep your life a bit simpler. Life as a Christian is never boring when you follow God’s plans.

    Sincerely,
    Melissa

    • Well, as for myself I do not become a Christian at all, actually. But do people become Christian because they’re hoping God will make them prosperous? Yes, plenty do – the Prosperity Gospel megachurches testify to that.

      As for purpose, I find plenty of purpose in life without belief in gods. It looks like Howard Gutknecht has found plenty of god-free purpose as well.

      Looks like your God-only theory of purpose doesn’t hold water.

      • D Bower

        That doesn’t make the study any less true. This just shows that christian states tend to be less wealthy nothing else. Stop taking offense to it. A study is a study. It is not to prove a point, it is just a fact.

    • Jonah

      I completely agree with everything you said. We were all created to give God glory. Life is more than earning money, buying stuff, and dying. The most important thing we can do is love God with all our hearts and love our neighbor as ourselves. God gives us each individually what we can handle. Stuff is good but God is Great!

    • Jesus

      The Christian states are well worth the lower income due to the peaceful environment. Things among peaceful societies also tend to be cheaper. Consider Wal-Mart, which has effectively given every household a 4% yearly raise due to price competition.

  • I live in a neighborhood in Seattle that is economically challenged. In talking with my neighbors we have come up with a bunch of ideas related to community gardening, starting a prosper network to share community resources like tools, books, dvd’s, pass around art, start a local currency, start doing “how-to” sessions on making your own ale, learning to play the ukulele, just a ton of ideas. While we might have done this in a church community, in our community’s case, the focus on sin and redemption doesn’t necessarily lead a church in that direction, does it?

  • You are using money as a way to measure prosperity. Money is a way to measure financial wealth, not prosperity. True prosperity means that you are successful in every area of your life including health, relationships, and financially.

    Christians are supposed to be prosperous in every area of our lives. The Bible promises us this. The problem is that too many Christians don’t read their Bibles so they don’t know what it really says about how we are supposed to live.

    God does want us to be prosperous. He will not, however, circumvent our free will.

    Wallace Wattles, a minister, who wrote the Science of Getting Rich, was right. There are rules to this. Those who follow the rules do get rich, but again, being truly rich and prosperous isn’t only about money.

    I live in one of the 10 richest Congressional districts in the country (Alpharetta/Roswell). These people had more money than most will ever even imagine and yet many of those who lived there were miserable, and many of them were on antidepressants. I’m not sure I understand why, when people supposedly have it all, they’re miserable.

    The answer is found in Ecclesiastes.

    Sincerely,

    Jinger Jarrett

    • Jinger, consider rationally what you’ve written: “True prosperity means that you are successful in every area of your life including health, relationships, and financially. Christians are supposed to be prosperous in every area of our lives.”

      If Christians are supposed to be prosperous in every area of their lives, and one of those areas includes financial prosperity, as you say, then you are agreeing, not disagreeing, that money is an important measurement of prosperity.

      If God truly wants to make Christians prosperous in every area of their lives, you’ve already accepted the claim, by your own definition that God wants Christians to have lots of money.

      Yet, the ARIS and Census data show that Christianity is not correlated to financial prosperity in the United States. It seems that God has failed to meet your standards.

      Now, as to the other aspects of prosperity you identify, you’ve got a good point that those could be considered as kinds of prosperity, but you don’t have any data showing that those are at all associated with Christianity.

      I’m going to go look for some myself, and I’ll write some articles based on what I find. Thanks for the tip, Jinger

  • VM

    No one today is an eye witness that God exists. So why are MILLIONS of people so convinced God is real? If you follow God or know anything about the bible, you must then understand that it is by FAITH that we know God exists (to believe in something not seen). Hard to prove, to someone who wants physical evidence over a subject that OBVIOUSLY has none just by the word “GOD” alone.

    PHYSICAL EVIDENCE:

    Most people would probably say that income is a measure of how much you make and can spend; and wealth is the measurement of the amount of years you can go without having to work.

    So if I make $53,000 per year (and brag about being on the right side of the chart), but I spend $55,000 per year because I use credit cards and pay a minimum every month: am I really wealthy? I would reach retirement age still working to pay off my debt. More than likely stressed out and beat up.

    What about if I make $42,000 per year but only spend $25,000 and save the other $17,000? Am I really less wealthy than if I made $53,000?<–Most (not all) Christians learn to live without luxuries and debt (the bible suggests not to).

    But that is common sense. Anyone can learn to do that even if you are not Christian. So true that we are proud to claim a BILL GATES, DONALD TRUMP, WARREN BUFFET and have a clean shot at being up there too if we really desired to.

    The point is, that if you are arguing about money, you are missing the whole point. We don’t go to GOD to be rich or wealthy (he will provide material and spiritual wealth if he thinks we can handle it, and that applies to everyone:Mat 25:14-30). We go to God to gain knowledge and direction towards a joyful life and after life. Notice I said JOYFUL and not HAPPY. The happiness money brings is volatile. The joy God brings is not.

    GOD IS SUPERNATURAL

    Meaning it wont’ make sense to just anybody. The only evidence are the testimony of those who got supernatural works and results after praying to God for help or seeking him. Most of those who once didn’t believe, and saw the power of God move in their life, are now calling themselves Christians. It happened the exact same way in the bible. Chances are if you haven’t had an encounter, you are still questioning it, so ask God for a sign if you need to.

    INSURANCE

    When you buy an insurance policy, you rest assured (believing) that if something goes wrong, you are covered. God works the same way, when you establish a RELATIONSHIP, you can rest assured that if something goes wrong, you are covered, except that in all the areas of your life (health, wealth, family, problems…etc.)

    HERE IS THE CUTEST THOUGHT: IT IS EASIER TO GET SOMEONE TO BELIEVE IN WICHCRAFT (WHICH IS ALSO SUPERNATURAL SPIRITUALISM AND NOT AT ALL A GOOD THING), THAN TO GET SOMEONE TO BELIVE IN GOD WHO TEACHES GOOD WORKS. AMAZING!

  • RRD

    As the old saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Run those top ten and bottom ten numbers again factoring cost of living in those states. And I don’t even support the prosperity idea – I just don’t tolerate poor critical thinking regardless of beleifs.

  • Jimmy D

    Past surveys I’ve read equate the most ‘christian’ states with the least educated states (which are also disproportionately ‘Red’ states) – which in turn would certainly mean lower income.

  • M Squirrel

    The prosperity gospel is simple…give your money to the church, and God is suppose to return it X-fold. Unfortunately, the only one who ends up prospering is the evangelist himself so he/she can spend it on the limos, private jets, cocaine, and hookers while their congregations struggle to feed their families. Its a scam. But hey, it makes the evangelist rich. That’s why they love it.

  • RD

    The data bear out the simple truth of the matter: The less money a given community has, the more that community needs to believe in a higher ordinate. That is to say, “life sucks, there must be something out there beyond the current misery- God will provide it if only we have faith” In this country, Christianity happens to be the dominant paradigm, so Christians tend to have less wealth.
    As an aside, the less wealthy and more religious people are, the more they tend to political conservatism. Eat your own dog food, idiots!

  • snoofy

    Do you think you could do the same correlation to see if Jews are richer? Also, try publishing those results and see how it’s received. :)

  • mathy

    although this is rather interesting and perhaps a valid argument… correlation does not imply causation

    • Jim

      But a lack of correlation in the direction predicted by Prosperity Gospel theorists does imply a lack of causation of the sort predicted by Prosperity Gospel theorists.

  • Marilyn

    Jesus said to seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven and all these things will be added to you.

  • Jesus

    Read your Bible

    • Ganesha

      I don’t have a Bible, but I’ll get one and read it, if you read your Upanishads.

      • JD

        Ganesha, I’m not who wrote the “Jesus” comment but if your serious, I’ll take you up on it. Provide me with a link to an English version of your choice and I’ll provide you wiht a link to my suggestion of the Bible. If you’d like to correspond in an email format rather than this site, let me know and we can exchange email addresses.

  • Fray

    Your analysis has only shown that the average state is inversely proportional to the percentage of Christians.

    Income by itself is not an indicator of wealth. To determine wealth you must factor in cost of living (ex: it is more expensive to live in metropolitan California than podunk West Virginia).

    Your analysis is in the same catagory as the one that shows a decrease in piracy causes global climate change.

  • MAX OUT

    YEA ALL 3RD WORLD HIGH TECH ADVANCED STATES OF AFRICA, ASIA AND SOUTH AMERICA ARE DEF CHRISTIANIZED TO THE MAX.

    GREAT LOGIC.

  • Chuck Wright

    The author has a very flawed logic in his graph; by purely listing raw incomes one does not take into account the cost of living. On one hand you could look at wages in the Northeastern part of the country and determine that the people make more whilst people down south make less but cost of living does affect take home pay, which is infinitely more important. States w/ traditionally less Christian tendancies also seem to tax its people at a much higher rate also disproportionally reducing take home pay. In this sense the numbers presented in this article are fictituous at best. The surveys that seem to indicate that the country is somehow, in mass, driving away from Christianity is a fantasy driven by people w/ their own agendas against the Judeo Christian belief system.

  • These surveys are a fantasy? You mean they don’t exist, Chuck?

    Actually, there is ample evidence that these surveys exist, Mr. Wright. What there isn’t any evidence for is…

    … well, you fill in the blank.

  • Mark

    Your interpretation of the data is not correct. There are wealthy states and poorer states and their wealth/poverty is independent of religion. It is a function of natural resources and industry. A better gauge is to compare within a state the average income of practicing/church going christians vs. the average income of the state. I don’t know for sure, but would bet that the Christians would come out on top. I wouldn’t use this as proof of the “Prosperity Gospel”. I believe it shows that the christian lifestyle is less prone to financial disaster than a nonchristian or pagan lifestyle.

  • Mark, my interpretation of the data is a heck of a lot better than yours. You look at the data that’s available, and then you guess that there would be other data, from unknown sources, that would reverse the pattern that is shown in the present data.

    Success of industry is another aspect of economic prosperity in a state. Saying that lack of industry in a state explains the poor economic conditions there is a little bit circular.

    Consider that you’re citing “natural resources” as another explanation that will somehow, with the data you’re guessing exists, contradict the pattern in the data I’ve found. According to Christian belief, who made and controls the natural resources? It isn’t Sarah Palin.

    You have produced absolutely no data at all to support your claims that a Christian lifestyle is less prone to financial disaster than a “nonchristian or pagan lifestyle”.

  • Dr.Ron Knox

    Most have never read the words of Christ. when ask are you the son of God? He replied you say that I am. Christ called himeself The son of Man. When he said Non may get to the father but thru me what, he ment was his words. Not his body. To confuse that Christ was God. Is wrong. God is God. Christ was sent by God. We do not need big buildings and budgets of millions of dollars to worship God. Christ preached against such things. The greedy so called men of god use an old passage saying that you must pay to God 20%. They will pay for there greed. Christ told you . If you want to find God Look within. For where two or more of you are gathered in his name I will there.
    in his name go in peace

  • Kevin

    “We were all created to give God glory.”

    That is some powerfull stupid there. What kind of all-powerfull being makes creatures for the purpose of having them worship him? that is some sick thinking right there.

    Then, to compound it, this being makes them flawed so he KNOWS they will screw up and fail to worship him in the manner he wants, AND, then, punishes them for all ETERNITY because they failed, because he set them up to fail.

    What a sadistic insecure farking twit!

    • Jessie D

      He didn’t create us to worship knowing were not capable then punish us. He wants the recognition of creation -he wants your soul because satin does too. He loves you -satin hates love..that’s all he’s not an ego maniac or out to punish -he knows were all gonna fall short and fail. I’m not attacking you -infact I’m praying as I’m writing that I speak only of which God puts his words. I wish you luck and I hope that you find peace through Christ. If I can help in any way please let me know -my church has sermons on i tunes and it’s fantastic it has helped me in many ways and answered some of the toughest questions imaginable for me. God Bless -again this was not an attack I hope I helped. Jessie

  • Jessie D

    It’s sad to see such awful comments above. Anyways I never heard that if you become Christian than God will make you wealthy. I’m Christain-I can say I raise two children on my own with a part time job-bairly any help from their fathers financially-almost no state aid and I work part time. I have a great car that was a gift,a great apartment,food ,clothes and much more. Mathmatically nothing ever adds up-ever! Every month God just gives us what we need. I do believe that if you put your faith in God and you give with your HEART than God will not let you suffer financially….one more time ,give with your HEART. I’m not rich by any means infact I’m uneducated and shouldn’t have the job I have-acording to the way of the world. My life is no where near what I thought it would be. Everytime something goes wrong God puts the money in my path-he ALWAYS comes through for me. I give what I can and I give with my heart and I trust God to use it for his purposes-he promises if we trust he will take care of us acording to our individual lives and needs (Do I want more money-just to blow on friviluos things …sure! Do I need more money? No I don’t….and I’m thankful , I’m thankful I can teach my girls need not greed-that sure as heck isn’t how I was raised!!!)…Christains do not have to freak out and panic when something goes wrong-God figures it out and comes through. On weeks and times money is really tight -well…than I can still give time or clothes or kindness to someone in need. I can hope and pray that you non believers find Christ but to put you down and insult you would not properly represent God. Which brings me to one final thought…A lot of times people who claim to be Christians/priests etc etc do awful things. Please don’t blame God or Jesus. Man has free will. It’s not Gods fault that man strays away from the word. He loves you and want’s you back. I’m not perfect infact I can be really rotten sometimes-but anything good that comes out of me is because of God-it’s him working through me. If it’s not good ,it’s not God- we’re all sinners, all we can do is try to be good christians,have faith and pray for the things we have trouble with. He’s waiting & he’s loving & the outcome of Christianity is far better than you can imagine-I feel peace-I know right from wrong-Yes it’s hard at times and yes I fail the tests often but I keep trying harder-My life is awful without God. God Bless!

  • James

    I agree God is good and all the time. God put it on my heart to share this wonderful e-book that will bless sunday schools, communities, family and church services in general.
    Check out Pastor Jessie L. Dudley e-book at http://masscash4u.hopfeed.com/feed/?u=NTYxNQlHTkhGQkgzRVBGCTMJbWFzc2Nhc2g0dQlqZXNsb3UJCQ%3D%3D

    God Bless

  • I am quoting you in my soon to be released book “The 80% Solution: If Christians Followed the Rules” I need more than “Truman” to list in a bibliography. I’d appreciate it if you could help me out.

  • jay

    A rich man cannot enter heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.

  • jay

    Jesus is real……..I can prove it, do you sin? If so, thats Satan causing u to sin. If Satan is real guess what?…….God is real.

    • Junga

      Jay, if I accept the validity of this argument, I can prove that anything is true.

      For example, I can prove that Puff The Magic Dragon is real.

      Do you breathe? If so, that’s Puff The Magic Dragon’s terrible enemy, Jellybean Julius, causing you to breathe. If Jellybean Julius is real, guess what? Jackie Paper is real.

      If you expect me to accept your argument for the reality of Jesus, then you must accept my argument for the reality of Puff The Magic Dragon.

      Hey, guess what? Puff The Magic Dragon just spoke to me, and says that you should send me $20, so that your soul will be saved.

  • Steve

    “So, you could argue that every percent increase in Christian population costs state residents on average about 500 dollars.” — LOL

    So, … all we need to do is kick all the Christians out of the country and the economy will turn around? Alrighty then. Canada, get ready…the U.S. has a get rich quick scheme.

  • Steve

    Ok, so how hard would it have been to label those stupid blue dots via a mouse-over or something? Maybe, some of us would like to move…. LOL

  • This article makes complete sense. These mega churches have just left out the fine print that says that the more people they recruit, the richer the churches become, not the individuals. It’s simple capitalism which of course has always been America’s true religion, unfortunately Christianity has always been America’s smoke and mirrors part of the show to hide it’s deceptions.

  • Thats all bullshit

    Correlation does not prove cause & effect relationship.
    Talking about correlation it looks like this coefficient is very poor for this study.
    If you want to show a very poor study go on, otherwise you better look for other variables that could explain better the issued chart.
    Additionally, I could say that USA have the 2,5% richest population with 40% of world wealth…

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