The Greying Church: The Impact of Life Expectancy on Religiosity
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Many churches are concerned about older and dwindling congregations. We develop a theoretical framework to explain not only the downward trend in church attendance, but also the increase in the proportion of older people in the congregations. Religiosity depends positively on the expected social and spiritual benefits attached to religious adherence, as well as the probability of entering heaven in the afterlife. While otherworldly compensation in terms of salvation and spiritual benefits motivates religiosity, the costs of formal religion in terms of time allocated to communal activities and foregone income work in the opposite direction. We show that higher life expectancy discounts expected benefits in the afterlife and is hence likely to lead to postponement of religiosity. For this reason, religious organizations should be prepared to attract older members to their congregations, while emphasizing contemporaneous religious benefits to increase overall church attendance.