October 11, 2016

How income varies among U.S. religious groups

While there is a strong and proven correlation between education and income, it’s harder to know whether there also is a link between religion and wealth. What we can say is that members of some religious groups – not to mention atheists and agnostics – on average have a higher household income than others and those in the richest religious groups also tend, on average, to be better educated than most Americans.

Some of the most financially successful religious groups – Jews, Hindus, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians – also are all among the nation’s most educated as well. These rankings, which come from our 2014 Religious Landscape Study, are based on the percentage of people within each religious group who reside in households with a yearly income of $100,000 or more.

About four-in-ten Jews (44%) and roughly a third of Hindus (36%) and Episcopalians (35%) live in households with incomes of at least $100,000. Again, these groups also have high levels of educational attainment. For instance, nearly half of Hindu adults and almost one-third of Jewish adults hold postgraduate degrees. Indeed, in addition to education, other factors, such as age, race and ethnicity also are correlated with both religion and income.

Members of three other mainline Protestant denominations – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Methodist Church –also have high household income. So, too, do self-identified atheists and agnostics, which may call into question any link between high levels of religious belief and wealth. Members of all these groups also are more likely to be highly educated than the general population.

Among those denominations with the lowest household income are two historically black churches, the National Baptist Convention (9% live in households with incomes of at least $100,000) and the Church of God in Christ (9%). Jehovah’s Witnesses also have low household income (4%). In all three of these groups, nearly half of all members have household incomes of less than $30,000 per year.

Given that roughly one-in-five Americans identify as Catholic, it’s not surprising that the share of Catholics in the top income bracket (19%) is the same as the nation as a whole. Members of one of the country’s largest Protestant denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention, are only slightly less well off, with 16% in households making $100,000 or more.

Topics: Education, Income, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation, Religious Beliefs and Practices

  1. Photo of David Masci

    is a senior writer/editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    Please tell me that you did not mix the Anglican Church In North America in with the Episcopal Church!

  2. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    Was nation of Islam considered the same as muslim?

    To clarify National of Islam is purely an american religious/political movement, followed by almost exclusively by african americans. Some refer to it as a black supremacist movement.

  3. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    I obviously don’t have data to back it up but I would guess that Mormons households are more often single income households.

  4. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    Question: Is this gross pay or after tithing?

  5. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    You went to a lot of effort to be sure to get the particular synods of the Presbyterians sorted out, but still managed not to get the name right of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    1. David Kent2 weeks ago

      If you’re referring to the use of the term “Mormon” in the chart, we used adjectival form where available — Jewish and Muslim, for example, not Judaism and Islam.

  6. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    It would be interesting to see a further breakdown of white Catholics vs. Hispanic Catholics. My guess is that the former would rank among the top five while the latter would fall closer to the historically black churches.

  7. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    How does geography factor into wages? For example many Jews live in New York and California.

  8. J. Gravelle2 weeks ago

    Atheist:Agnostic “religious groups” …

  9. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    You neglected to mention Scientology

  10. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    The data doesn’t (but should) take into account the age. Episcopalians are very old. Age correlates with wealth. How does a 50 year old Episcopalian compare with a 50 year old Mormon, say.

    1. Anonymous2 weeks ago

      Age correlates with retirement.

  11. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    All of the richest religious groups came to the US with more money than the poorer groups so it’s natural that they’re able to buy the best private education.

    The poorest people in the US, American Indians, were dispossessed of their wealth, and the next poorest, black Americans (who tend to be Baptists) never got their 40 acres and a mule after slavery to have a basis for building wealth.

    Perhaps the most interesting group here are the Mormons, who weren’t rich, but who had a communal approach to wealth in the 19th century and settled in a rich land, Utah, that they were able to exploit commercially.

    1. Anonymous2 weeks ago

      Are you saying that when the Jews and Hindus came to this country they already had the wealth with them? Thats a pretty bold claim to make without any proof, last time I checked the majority of Jews who immigrated to this country were in poverty when they got here, same applies to the Hindus who arrived here around the 70’s and 80’s

  12. Anonymous2 weeks ago


    Have you considered adjusting for cost of living and age across the U.S.?
    For example, most Jews live in the most expensive metropolitan areas.
    Also, if i am not mistaken, most Jews are also older than the general population.