Economic inequality in the U.S. is the highest it has been since the Great Depression (Saez & Zucman, 2015), and economic mobility is historically low (OECD, 2010). The current project investigates whether religion can serve as a source of resilience in the face of these increasingly harsh economic realities.
We hypothesize that high economic inequality and immobility lowers one's sense of personal control, particularly over one's economic future. Religion may be used to compensate for this perceived lack of personal control (e.g., Kay et al., 2010), acting as a compensatory buffer against economic hardships. But, buffering may be a mixed blessing, lending some people the resilience to improve their situations and others a license to place their problems “in God’s hands.” To this end, this proposal addresses three key questions:
1. Do economic inequality and economic immobility interactively predict religious belief across geographic regions and individuals?
2. Does religion buffer people against the deleterious psychological consequences of economic adversity?
3. Which factors predict whether religion leads people to persist in the face of economic adversity?
These questions draw upon Dr. Brown-Iannuzzi’s expertise in economic inequality and Dr. Gervais’ expertise in religious cognition.