Peer pressure can prompt generosity, study finds

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RELIGIOUS people in the United States spend about £900 a year supporting their religious institution; but more than a third feel pressured by peers to do so.

This was among the findings of a survey of 875 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim people (of equal numbers) in the country, conducted by the finance blog LendEDU, last month.

On average, respondents donated $1190.31 a year (£890) to support their place of worship, affiliated charities, community events, or religious peers and members.

Breaking this down, Jewish people donated an average of $1309.23 a year to their religion, Muslims $1442.91, and Christians $817.42. More than half (55 per cent) of all respondents budgeted for these contributions.

The survey had four categories of “Christian” denomination: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, and “other Christian denomination”. Of these, Mormons donated the most: $1648.17 a year on average. Roman Catholic respondents donated the least: $511.58 a year. Most donations by Christians were put towards the repair or maintenance of facilities, and assisting peers in times of need, the survey says.

This was compared with the general costs of being part of a religion (outside of financial donations): a further $940 a year, on average. Christians spent $335.08 a year on average to participate: the lowest annual cost, paid by Mormons ($224.33), was offset by the highest cost, $424.93, paid by Protestants. Muslims paid $1313.26, and Jewish people $1181.78 to contribute.

The total average cost of being part of a religion, therefore, amounted to more than $2000 (£1600).

A spokesman for LendEDU, Alex Coleman, said on Wednesday: “$2000 per year is considerable, depending on the financial position of the individual you are surveying. However, compared to what Americans reportedly spend on Christmas and Thanksgiving in the US (and that is only for one day), $2000 per year is not a significant expenditure.”

Overall, most of the people surveyed did not feel pressured by peers or religious leaders to contribute financially to their religion (60 per cent). But Jewish people felt more pressured to donate than Muslims and Christians — and more Jewish respondents had distanced themselves from their religion (28 per cent), and had even considered switching religions (24 per cent) as a result of this financial pressure.

Nearly 40 per cent of Jewish people, 36 per cent of Muslims, and 25 per cent of Christians also reported that they had been treated differently according to the amounts that they had donated.

“Peer pressure can be found in almost any group or organisation,” Mr Coleman said. “It is common to hear about a friend, co-worker, or spouse experiencing pressure from peers to buy a nicer car, bigger house, etc. We were curious if the same social pressures existed within religious groups as well.”

One third of respondents said that they did not donate more because they were already donating as much as was possible; and another 40 per cent gave their limited income as a reason. Debt, such as credit cards, student loans, and mortgages, as well as donating not being a “top priority”, were also cited.

 

lendedu.com/blog/finance-and-religion/

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