Religious organisations can play an important role in promoting the wellbeing of individuals and communities.
Deloitte Access Economics was engaged by The Study of the Economic Impact of Religion on Society (SEIROS) to examine the economic impact of religiosity (specifically, attendance at religious services of any organised religious denomination) on giving and volunteering behaviour in Australia, using data from a national survey of over 7,000 Australians.
Controlling for a range of observable factors which might affect people’s propensity to donate and to volunteer, we find that religious people are more likely to be donors and volunteers than non-religious people.
However, a range of factors which aren’t measured in the survey (like how an individual was raised) could impact on both religiosity and volunteering/donating.
We estimate that religiosity is associated with 194,320 additional volunteers in Australia each year who collectively contribute 30.5 million hours in volunteering time, or 2.4% of total volunteering hours in Australia, which is calculated from survey responses. The monetary value of this volunteering time is estimated at $339 million.
We also estimate that religiosity positively affects the likelihood of an individual to donate. Our findings suggest that religiosity brings about an additional $142 million in donations each year, or 1.7% of total donations in Australia, which is calculated from survey responses.
In total, the annual value to society of volunteering and giving associated with religiosity is estimated to be $481 million.
It’s difficult to untangle religiosity from other factors which might cause donating and volunteering behaviour. We try to remove the influence of these other factors by only considering the activity of a subset of religious people – specifically, those who were not religious in their youth but are now – to religiosity.
In practice, this means that our estimates are conservative, because this only represents a small proportion of the broader religious community, and its volunteering and donating activity. Regardless, it is clear that volunteering and donating behaviour associated with religiosity provides a broader benefit to Australian society.