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Monday, May 3, A.D. 2010
Income by Religion

I found a fascinating graph that maps the average income of various religions’ adherents in America. See “The Almighty Dollar” from Good.

Predictably, a larger percentage of Jews (46%) make six digit incomes than other groups, though our Hindus (43%) are doing well, too. If only all our immigrants were upper caste types! Arizonans would not fret about Mexico’s exporting its best and brightest to us. On the poorer side, black Protestant sects and Jehovah’s Witnesses have the largest percentages of people who make under $30,000 a year (47% and 42%, respectively). The Mohammedans surprisingly show as the third poorest. I would like to see a distinction between immigrants and the Nation of Islam types. I imagine that the latter drag the former’s statistics down.

Interestingly, the Orthodox come in third behind the Jews and the Hindus in the six digit category. Greek businessmen and Russian scientists have done well in this land of mammon. Moreover, there is not really a lower class drag for the Orthodox. The laboring classes among Orthodox immigrant populations from the industrial age have, like Italians, moved firmly into the middle and upper classes. Among the recent immigrant waves, we find new Russians, Arabs, Indians, and Ethiopians doing very well materially. In D.C., the Ethiopian community has become the “new Greeks.” They are the omnipresent merchant class, who reportedly are buying many of the city’s groceries, restaurants, and night clubs.

Roman Catholics expectedly follow the national average. Their size and class diversity render them statistically normal. I would assume that the same would be true of the Orthodox if they were far more numerous. For these groups are largely the religions of entire peoples, while most Protestant sects in America have come to be associated with a certain class. While there are rich Pentecostals and poor Episcopalians (well, I suppose that there are poor Episcopalians, though I have never met one), Protestant identification tends to differentiate based on class. How many of you grew up with a Baptist who went to college, moved up the social ladder, and then started attending a “higher class” church?

The mainline churches have mostly all become upper class, leftwing S.W.P.L. social and political clubs that preach inclusion but do not offer much for the poorer, dumber, and less educated except a form of patronizing charity, bundled together with celebrating diversity rhetoric. However, the figures shown on Good’s graph do not show a large difference between the mainline churches and the national average. Perhaps, their staying power in poorer, rural, white communities along with their charitable urban missions account for this normalcy. Moreover, the ethnic Lutheran communities and the rural W.A.S.P. country folk in the Midwest likely approach the traditional Christian “whole people of God” inclusion of all the classes. Yet, the mainliest of the mainlines appear class based in most of the country.

I wonder if the current “evangelical movement” will curtail the tendency toward class differentiation among American Protestants. The evangelicals have a lower class background along with a few generations of vibrant intellectual life (those “Wheaton evangelicals”). I think that it is possible for American evangelicals to create a class diverse population. I expect their wealthier numbers to increase as they grow in numbers overall due to the hemorrhaging of mainline Protestants and white Roman Catholics. Soon, they may match up with the national average, too.

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