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A bit of religion in the dismal science


FRED’s main contribution to the “dismal science” of economics is its core economic and monetary data. But FRED recently added some socio-demographic indicators as well. None of these indicators covers religion, per se; but quite a few relate to religion indirectly. A recent search for “religion” in FRED yielded 185 results, and two of those series are highlighted above: (i) real private consumption expenditures dedicated to religion and other social services and (ii) real investment in religious nonresidential structures, which we presume are mostly churches. (Both series are chain-type indexes.) For comparison, we also include real GDP in the graph, with all indexes having a value of 100 in 2009. Religious consumption expenditures (which may have a variable non-religious component) have tracked GDP quite well since 1929, but church building has plummeted over the past ten years. This decline predates the construction industry’s overall decline during the previous recession. Thus, there may be non-economic factors at play here.

How this graph was created: Search for “religion” and narrow the results by clicking on the “nation” tag. You should find the first two series fairly quickly. Again: The “religious” series are chain-type indexes. Select them and click on the “Add to graph button.” Then add the “real GDP” series and change units to “Index (Scale value to 100 for chosen period)” to 2009-01-01.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann

View on FRED, series used in this post: C309RA3A086NBEA, DSOCRA3A086NBEA, GDPCA


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