Skewness Explained: A Rational Choice Model of Religious Giving

Iannaccone, Laurence. "Skewness Explained: A Rational Choice Model of Religious Giving." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 36 (June, 1997): 141-157.

Iannaccone explores the determinants of religious giving through simulations, economic theory, and survey data. Skewness--the fact that a relatively large proportion of total giving to congregations comes from a relatively small proportion of church members--is a distinctive yet poorly understood feature of religious giving. Iannaccone shows that skewness is produced by a weak correlation between absolute levels of income and percentage rates of giving. The weak correlation is itself explained, he argues, by a formal, rational choice model of religious participation, i.e., religious participation proves to be a much better predictor of giving than income levels. The author argues further that data from the General Social Surveys show that this model also accounts for other observed patterns in giving and church attendance. (SM)