(CNSNews.com) – A new analysis from Georgetown University that attempts to document the economic value of religion in U.S. society found that the faith sector is worth $1.2 trillion, more than the combined revenue of the top 10 technology companies in the country, including Apple, Amazon, and Google.
The study, The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis, makes three estimates of the quantitative economic value of faith to American society.
The first estimate took into account only the revenues of faith-based organizations, which came to $378 billion annually. The second estimate, $1.2 trillion, included the fair market value of goods and services provided by religious organizations and included contributions of businesses with religious roots.
The third, higher-end, estimate of $4.8 trillion takes into account the household incomes of religiously affiliated Americans, assuming that they conduct their affairs according to their religious beliefs.
The study’s authors, Brian Grim of Georgetown University and Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute, conclude that the second estimate of $1.2 trillion is the most reasonable because “it takes into account both the value of the services provided by religious organizations and the impact religion has on a number of important American businesses.”
“Understanding the socio-economic value of religion to American society is especially important in the present era characterized by disaffiliation from organized religion,” the study argues, citing a recent Pew Research Center survey that found the number of religiously affiliated Americans is down to one-fifth of the population.
Pew found that a majority of the religiously unaffiliated think that religious organizations are too focused on such things as money and power, and on rules and politics.
“Given the division of opinion on religion’s contribution to American society,” the authors write, “this present study seeks to shed light on the topic by making an estimate of religion’s socio-economic value to society. Indeed, we should know if the decline in religion is likely to have negative economic consequences.”
Based on its findings the study emphasizes that, “Religion is a highly significant sector of the American economy” because it “provides purpose-driven institutional and economic contributions to health, education, social cohesion, social services, media, food and business itself.”
“Perhaps most significantly,” the study adds, “religion helps set Americans free to do good by harnessing the power of millions of volunteers from nearly 345,000 diverse congregations present in every corner of the country’s urban and rural landscape.”
A video summarizing the study’s findings was released this week by the nonprofit organization Faith Counts.