Religion, Human Capital Investments, and the Family in the United States

Evelyn L. Lehrer

in The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780195390049
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Religion, Human Capital Investments, and the Family in the United States

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This article explores the role of religion in human capital investments and the family in the United States, based on analyses of microlevel data. The economic perspective views an individual's religious affiliation as affecting economic and demographic behavior because the norms and teachings of various faiths influence the perceived benefits and costs of numerous decisions that people make over the life cycle, including choices regarding the pursuit of investments in secular human capital, cohabitation, marriage, divorce, family size, and employment. These decisions are closely interrelated, so when religious teachings directly influence any one of them, all others are indirectly affected. Consistent with existing structures of perceived benefits and costs, several religious groups in the United States exhibit patterns of economic and demographic behavior that differ significantly from those of mainline Protestants. A higher level of religious participation can affect economic and demographic behavior by accentuating the effects of affiliation. The article also examines patterns of non-marital sex and divorce among conservative Protestants and discusses the role of religion in the second demographic transition in the United States.

Keywords: religion; human capital; investments; family; United States; Protestants; divorce; non-marital sex; second demographic transition; religious affiliation

Article.  6092 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Labour and Demographic Economics ; Microeconomics

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