People are less likely to attend religious services regularly if their income rises, new research shows.
Dr Ingrid Storm, of the University of Manchester, analysed survey data on more than 20,000 people in Britain to compare their income and religious attendance. Her research is the first of its kind to use data on the same people measured over time, from 1991 to 2012.
Dr Storm told the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Manchester today [Tuesday 4 April] that a rise in income of about £10,000 a year (£880 a month) meant that people were 6 percentage points less likely to attend services monthly.
But a fall in income had no effect on people’s monthly attendance at churches, mosques and other places of worship, the research showed.
She said that a reason that people turned away from religious services when their income increased was that they had less need for the social support found in religious communities.
"Religious participation is most appealing to people who have available time, but less available financial resources," she said.
"But when their income rose, the extra money could increase access to other forms of social activities and entertainment, and these take up time and attention that could otherwise have been spent on religious practice."
• The percentage attending religious services at least once a month in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) fell from 20% in 1991 to 15% in 2012.
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1. Dr Storm used data collected by the British Household Panel Survey and UK Household Panel Survey from 1991-2012. For the analysis of the effect of income rise and fall on the likelihood of regular religious service attendance, she drew on data on 24,044 people. The figures were adjusted to compare people of the same age, gender and economic background. Income is measured as household income adjusted for household size, and the amounts presented here are estimates for a single person household.
2. The British Sociological Association's annual conference takes place the University of Manchester from 4 to 6 April 2017. Around 700 research presentations are given. The British Sociological Association's charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235 www.britsoc.co.uk
3. The University of Manchester, a member of the prestigious Russell Group of British universities, is the largest and most popular university in the UK. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. The university is one of the country’s major research institutions, rated fifth in the UK in terms of 'research power' (REF 2014), has had no fewer than 25 Nobel laureates either work or study there, and had an annual income of just over £1 billion in 2014/15. www.manchester.ac.uk