Yesterday saw the launch in Canberra of the first report by a body called the “Study of the Economic Impact of Religion on Society” (SEIROS), looking into the general impact of religious belief on the Australian community. The report, prepared by respected economic modellers at Deloitte based on a commissioned survey designed by researchers for SEIROS, can be downloaded here: Donating and volunteering behaviour associated with religiosity.
The press release from SEIROS notes:
The research uses new data from a national survey of over 7,000 Australians and finds:
Individuals who started attending religious services as adults are 1 .7 times more likely to be a volunteer and 1.5 times more likely to make donations (compared to people who have never attended religious services).
The additional volunteers and donors associated with religiosity are estimated to give an additional 30.5 million hours of volunteering per year with an economic value of at approximately $339 million to the Australian economy, and additional donations of around $142 million.
The total estimated annual value to the Australian economy of volunteering and giving done by people who start attending religious services as adults is approximately $481 million.
The full press release, with some more information about SEIROS, is available here: SEIROS – Summary of Deloitte findings.
Australia doesn’t support religious freedom just for the economic benefits that religion can bring, but the fact is that religion does on balance amount to a force for good in the community. This research is just a start at exploring this whole area in a rigorous and evidence-based way.
Full disclosure: I am on the board of reference for SEIROS; I know nothing about statistics and economics, but I can assure you that some people who do know these things very well have worked hard on this data!