Research on Religious and Economic Beliefs and Values in American Society

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Tue, 01/01/1991

Robert Wuthnow conducted a three year research project on the relationship between religious and economic values, beliefs, and practices in order to provide a broad assessment of the meanings of money and work in American society. The research was intended to expand knowledge about the relationship between religious and economic values in order to better understand specific issues about the financing of churches. A national sample of more than 2,000 working Americans was surveyed, and in- depth interviews were conducted with a large sample of respondents. Findings demonstrate how religious commitments connect or fail to connect with work, money, and attitudes toward material possessions. One of the significant findings of this research was that, on the whole, religious values support materialism by helping employees be more satisfied with their work and by helping to justify materially privileged lives. The American dream is in trouble, according to Wuthnow, because its economic life has lost its moral underpinnings. Results of this research were published in several volumes: God and Mammon in America, Poor Richard's Principle and an edited volume, Rethinking Materialism: Perspectives on the Spiritual Dimension of Economic Behavior. (SM)