The children of financially struggling but faithful parents — faithful in the sense of practicing a religion — are less vulnerable to the psychological and physical effects of child poverty. They’re also more likely to do well in school and, thus, to eventually prosper. That’s one set of conclusions drawn from surveys conducted on 20,000 kids over 15 years by economics professors at Tufts, Harvard and the University of Wisconsin. Commenting on the study in the evangelical-Protestant magazine World last November, Christine Kim of the Heritage Foundation said that kids in disadvantaged neighborhoods “actually benefit from participation in religious activities. [They] do better in school, in achievement tests.” They’re also less likely to smoke and engage in risky or delinquent behavior, adds World writer Alisa Harris. It’s hard to say whether the good effects “come from religious practice itself,” notes Harris, “or from the fact that religious parents tend to have … good traits like self-discipline, community involvement and mentoring skills.” Either way, faith rewards.
Illustration by Kevin Bedan