(EURWEB) As reported by Newsweek: Every day, the economist Daniel Hungerman looks at the graph that hangs above his desk at the University of Notre Dame.
One jagged line goes down and up. This is America’s gross domestic product since 1972. Another jagged line goes up and down. This is the religiosity of Americans over the same period, as measured by church attendance. The lines show an almost exact inverse correlation.
“You can see as clear as day a negative relationship in this picture,” says Hungerman, who threw the chart together for fun. “When the business cycle goes up, religious attendance goes down, and vice versa. The good mystery is why.”
Why indeed? The interplay between prosperity—and poverty—and religious observance has become a recent fascination of a small number of economists and other social scientists, for understanding these patterns can help us better predict the future. Do hard times produce more fundamentalists? Do prosperous times produce more do-gooders?
Will a lengthy economic slump pull people into the pews to pray for jobs and ladle soup for needier neighbors? Or will it keep people at home on the couch, nursing psychic wounds and cursing their creator?