Thursday, September 2, 2010

Church makes you happier than shopping

A new study ... reveals that women in the United States generally derive more happiness from religious participation than from shopping on Sundays. Additionally, the repeal of "blue laws," which allow stores to open on Sundays, has a negative effect on the level of religious participation of white women and therefore has a negative impact on their happiness. Interestingly, the authors did not observe any significant decline in reported happiness of other groups whose religious participation was not significantly affected by repeal.

The research also reveals that when Sunday blue laws are repealed, women who choose secular activities, such as shopping, are not happier. The repeal of blue laws decreases the relative probability of being at least "pretty happy" relative to "not happy" by about 17 percent.

According to Dr. Danny Cohen-Zada of BGU's Department of Economics, "We found that there is direct evidence that religious participation has a positive causal effect on a person's happiness. Furthermore, an important part of the decline in women's happiness during the last three decades can be explained by decline in religious participation." ...

The researchers analyzed data from the General Social Survey (GSS). They selected respondents who either live in states where there was a distinct, clear and significant change (repeal) in the prohibition of retail activity on Sundays (10 states) or where there was no change at all (six states).

Within the states, they used data for Catholics and Protestants because they were the most likely to attend church on Sundays. Non-Christian religions and respondents with no religion were excluded.
--e! Science News on what does and does not make us happy

The abstract of the original paper, "Religious Participation Versus Shopping: What Makes People Happier?" by Danny Cohen-Zada and William Sander:

Previous studies indicate that there is a positive correlation between religious participation and happiness. However, it is not necessarily the case that religious participation has a causal effect on happiness. In this study, we try to test whether religious participation affects happiness. Following previous research, we use the repeal of blue laws in states to identify the relationship between religious participation and happiness. We show that the repeal of blue laws can be used as a valid instrument for estimating the effect of church attendance on happiness. Further, we find that religious participation does indeed have a positive effect on happiness. The primary data source for our study is the National Opinion Research Center’s “General Social Survey.”

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