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Americans pray like Tanzanians and make money like Norwegians

A football player praying after scoring a
Reuters/USA Today
Full of gratitude.
  • Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Data editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Americans live in one of the world’s richest countries, and many count their blessings every day.

The Pew Research Center recently analyzed the relationship between GDP per capita and the share of people in a country who say they pray daily. They examined over 100 countries, using survey data from 2008 to 2017.

With a GDP per capita of about $56,000 in 2015, and 55% of residents saying that they pray every day, the US is the only country that’s above average in both GDP and prayer. The countries closest to the US in daily prayer are Bolivia and Tanzania, far poorer countries in terms of GDP per capita.

Religiosity generally falls as countries become wealthier. Researchers believe this may be because the higher level of education that tends to come with greater wealth leads citizens to question religious teachings. It may also be that wealthier people feel more secure, with less of a need to turn to religion for comfort or other forms of support.

It is important to note that the Pew analysis is based on whether people say they pray, not whether they actually do. Americans, therefore, might not be outliers in actual prayer, but in how much they feel the need to lie about it. Previous research shows that Americans tend to overestimate how often they attend religious services. Perhaps they should pray for forgiveness for all that fibbing.

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