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Economic Quality, Money & Christianity - A Nexus?
Does being a good Christian guarantee a high quality of life? For that matter, does money?
Jesus says: “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” Does this guarantee pay off? Or are there caveats?
www.kingecon.com has run a statistical test on whether Christianity is associated with the good life. And the answer is: Yes. And, maybe.
Using data from 106 countries, we have tested a simple mathematical proposition:
Quality of Life = ƒ (% Christian, GDP/capita)
So, lets take on both answers – yes and maybe – in that order.
Yes, Christianity appears to be associated (albeit imperfectly) with higher quality of life.
The mathematical question (or hypothetical question) is tested using a statistical technique known as linear regression. In effect, this is the technique of drawing a line in a way that best fits the data. It’s a bit more tricky than that – since we have three variables meaning the line is really a plane illustrated by the following 3-D (three-dimensional) graph.
As the graph illustrates, countries with a higher proportion of Christians and countries with higher levels of gross domestic product (GDP) on a per capita basis tend to be associated with a higher quality of life. In fact the mathematical relationship that best fits the data for these 106 countries can be expressed as follows:
Quality of Life (Scale of 1-10) = (0.00018 x GDP/Capita) + (4.75 x % Christian)
What this equation indicates is that a country that has a per capita GDP of $30,000 is projected at 5.40 points on the 1-10 scale quality of life. Note that the measure of GDP per capita used is adjusted for purchasing power parity (based on relative cost of living in each country).
If the country is 100% Christian, add another 4.75 points bring to the total projected quality of life to just over 10 (slightly over-achieving at just over the top of the 1-10 scale).
Christianity alone doesn’t get a nation to the top of the quality of life scale – but about half way there on its own. At $30,000 per capita, income would appear to get a nation the rest of the way – to nirvana?
Taken together, these two variables alone account for nearly 83% in indicated quality of life. Both variables are statistically significant at a 95% level of confidence. In other words, there’s a better than 95% chance that Christianity and income really do matter in affecting the quality of life of an individual (and a nation).
But wait! Maybe, there’s more than immediately meets the eye.
If only the equation were as simple as it first appears. But there are a few deadly caveats:
First of all, how is quality of life measured? For this analysis, we have used a 1-10 Quality of Life index developed by The Economist in 2005. But The Economist itself uses a measure that is based both on international survey results and then refined with a statistical analysis. The 1-10 scale is based on factors including health (most important), material well being, political stability and security, family life, community life, climate and geography, job security, political freedom, and gender equality. The factor of “material well-being” is defined based on GDP (gross domestic product) per capita – so it shouldn’t be surprising that our GDP measure tracks so well with Quality of Life (as a bit of circular logic).
Second, while the overall relationships tested appear statistically valid, how is it that the model predicts a quality of life for some countries exceeding the maximum score of 10? For example, based on high GDP per capita and still strong (78.5%) Christian affiliation, predicted quality of life for the U.S. is nearly 11 – above the top of the quality of life chart. However, actual quality of life in the U.S. as measured by The Economist is only 7.6 – just barely in the top quartile of the 1-10 rating scale.
Obviously other factors are at work. Countries that should go over the top don’t. Other countries with a predicted rating of better than 10 are Luxembourg (topping out at a predicted 14.7), Denmark and Ireland.
Finally, how is it that some countries fare much better than predicted? And what commonalities are shared by some of these countries? Countries with score at least 3 points above their predicted score (based on GDP per capita and Christian affiliation) are Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Trinidad/Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. What distinguishes these overachievers?
One clear set of added winners lies with a number of countries that are predominantly Muslin – the other great monotheistic tradition. The other set of winners lies with the large and rapidly growing countries of Asia – China, India, and Vietnam.
Christianity appears to be a winner. But, the story is bigger than that. It’s about the power of the one God – the God of Jews, Christians and Muslims. And yes, money buys well-being. But so may the grit and determination of those on their way up.
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