Income And Religion In Africa: Are They Connected?

April 15, 2015

More Africans describe themselves as religious than people in any other region of the world and income appears to exert an influence, according to a new Gallup poll, Mail&Guardian reports.

Morocco is the most religious country in Africa with 93 percent of survey respondents saying they are religious, while 91 percent of South Africans describe themselves as religious.

By comparison, 82 percent of people in the Middle East describe themselves as religious.

WIN/Gallup International polled 63,898 people in 65 countries globally and reported the results of the survey.

The most religious country surveyed is Thailand with 94 percent of people saying that they are religious.

When it comes to religion, income appears to exert a greater influence than gender and age globally. Among those with a medium-high and high income, less than 50 percent say they are religious compared with 70 percent of those with low, medium-low and medium income saying they are religious, Gallup reports.

More atheists were found in medium-high to high income groups, according to Mail&Guardian. “With African incomes on the rise, it will be interesting to keep an eye on these religious trends.”

Globally, people under 34 tend to be more religious. About 66 percent of those under age 34 said they are religious compared with 60 percent for the other age groups.

Those without an education are among the most religious (80 percent) although religious people are a majority in all educational levels globally.

Almost a third of the world’s Muslims live in Africa, mainly North Africa, West Africa, the Horn and Sahel, according to Mail&Guardian. Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Sudan and Morocco have the highest number of Muslims.

Africa has also seen the largest growth in Catholicism globally, with the number of practitioners at 200 million today — the vast majority in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of Catholics tripled in Africa in the last 30 years, Mail&Guardian reports.

The Pope is planning a trip to Africa this year — his first. Catholics represent half of the 470 million Christians in sub-Saharan Africa according to the Pew Research Centre, Mail&Guardian reports.

Baltimore-based paleontologist Gregory Paul concluded in a 2009 study that “religion is most able to thrive in seriously dysfunctional societies,” according to a CBCRadioCanada report.

Paul, who was a freelance researcher unaffiliated with any institution, compiled data on everything from income inequality and infant mortality to homicide rates and teenage pregnancies. He found that the societies that scored the best on socioeconomic indicators were also the most secular.

“There’s no situation where you have a really highly religious nation that’s highly successful socially,” he told CBC News.

Belief in God and participation in religious services have declined in recent decades in most first world countries but remained high in developing countries, according to the CBC report.

The Gallup poll found that China was the least religious country in the world with 61 percent of people claiming to be atheists — twice as many as any other country. In China, 29 percent of respondents said that they are not religious compared to 7 percent who say they are religious.

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