The income gap in the US corresponds with a church attendance gap.
It’s well-established that the gap between the middle class and those who earn the highest incomes in the United States has grown wider over time, spurring partisan responses over how or whether to address income inequality.
But there’s a facet of this issue that should be particularly worrisome to Christians: Many of the poorest Americans are abandoning church en masse. By stepping away from church communities, the people who are most financially strapped also end up losing out on social networks and social capital—which can make their economic situation and outlook even worse.
To test the relationship between religion and socioeconomic status, I took four income brackets (adjusted for inflation over the time) from the General Social Survey (GSS) and calculated the share that said they never attended religious services. The change over the last 46 years was stunning.
In the 1970s, the difference in church attendance among the four income groups was relatively small (about 5%). That gap has widened significantly over the last four decades, with a noticeable spike in recent years. In 2018, a quarter of the wealthiest Americans reported never attending services, while the share of those in the bottom bracket who never darkened a church door was over 35 percent. In essence, the inequality gap in attendance has now doubled.
The growing social gap between the rich and poor extends beyond church attendance, as Americans in the lowest income bracket report being increasingly isolated from their own communities overall.
Based on four GSS questions about socializing with friends, family, and neighbors over the last year—grouped together as measure of social activity—there were no significant differences among …