Abstract: Did the Wealth and Income Gaps Grow across Religious Groups after the Great Recession? (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

219P Did the Wealth and Income Gaps Grow across Religious Groups after the Great Recession?

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Stephanie Boddie, PhD, Assistant Professor, Baylor University, TX
Chenyi Ma, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Trina Shanks, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Eric Kyere, PhD, Assistant Professor, Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN
Christson Adedoyin, PhD, Associate professor, Samford University, AL

The economic downturn of the Great Recession continues to be felt, even more so for some groups. It is the longest and one of the most severe recessions since the Great Depression of the 1930s. From May 2007 to October 2009, the U.S. labor force lost 7.5 million jobs, the unemployment rate rose from 4.4 to 10.1 percent (Grusky, Western, & Wimer, 2011) and the average housing prices fell about 30 percent and the home ownership rate dipped (Bennett, 2012).  Both individuals and organizations experience the effects of this economic shock, even religious groups. This study advances research on religious stratification of six religious groups – Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestants, unaffiliated and Black Protestants. Ultimately, we identify which groups were able to weather the storm of this recession and to what extent inequalities and economic mobility shifted.


Drawing from 4,923 the Panel Study on Income Dynamics (PSID) households, we highlight descriptive statistics documenting the socioeconomic differences among Catholics (1,009), evangelical Protestants (1,006), mainline Protestants (766), Black Protestants (1,409), Jewish (106), and unaffiliated (627). We note the changes in income and wealth from 2005 to 2013. We measure the magnitude of wealth and income losses and gains across religious groups (Pfeffer et al., 2013) and the wealth and income gap across  groups.


Examining the patterns of wealth and income, we find that the U.S. religious landscape remains stratified. In particular, our findings show persistent differences in wealth and income across six religious groups. Moving past the Great Recession of 2007, the religious rankings of these groups  is Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestants, Black Protestants, Jews and the unaffiliated. Most notably, Jewish households have the most diverse wealth portfolios and remained at the top of the socioeconomic ladder both before and after the Great Recession. Black Protestants remain at the bottom with the least to lose and the most financially vulnerable. Hispanic Catholics and the unaffiliated also had comparatively smaller financial assets.  

These findings highlight other factors that shape socioeconomic status such as education, marital status, number of children, race/ethnicity, transmission of intergenerational wealth and location of residence. Jewish are more likely to pass on an inheritance and more likely to be married (Keister, 2011). Catholics are more likely to reside in the northeast where there are higher housing markets and significant loss during the recession. These findings also point to differences in income and net worth across groups as well as unaffiliated counterparts for religiously affiliated Blacks and Hispanics.


These findings illustrates the degree to which certain religious groups have access to resources and have maintained their economic positioning relative to other groups as well as inequalities across religious groups and economic mobility in the face of a severe financial shock in 2007.  ] Social Work can learn from the ways various groups exhibit financial capability and consider ways to support those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to enhance their financial capability.