Link between religion and wealth based on education

Atheists and agnostics are among the wealthiest groups in the United States, based on religious affiliation.

According to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center, 30% of atheists and 29% of agnostics have an annual household income of $100,000 or more. That is only behind Jews, Hindus, Episcopals and members of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The lowest earning group was Jehovah Witnesses, with just 4% of its members making more than $100,000 as a household.

David Masci of Pew points out that “there is a strong and proven correlation between education and income, but it’s harder to know whether there also is a link between religion and wealth. What we can say is that members of some religious groups — not to mention atheists and agnostics — on average have a higher household income than others and those in the richest religious groups also tend, on average, to be better educated than most Americans.”

Nearly half of Hindu adults and almost one-third of Jewish adults hold postgraduate degrees. Other factors besides education — including age, race and ethnicity — also are correlated with both religion and income.

Self-identified atheists and agnostics are among the top earners, “which may call into question any link between high levels of religious belief and wealth,” writes David Masci of Pew. “Members of all these groups also are more likely to be highly educated than the general population.”

Among those denominations with the lowest household income are two historically black churches, the National Baptist Convention (9% live in households with incomes of at least $100,000) and the Church of God in Christ (9%), according to Pew’s data. In those two groups (plus Jehovah’s Witnesses), almost half of all members have household incomes of less than $30,000 per year.

Freedom From Religion Foundation