Thursday, January 18, 2007

Americans who claim a religion are less criminal: The General Social Survey asked more than 9,000 respondents if they had a religion and whether they have ever been arrested. Here are the percent ever having been arrested:

Percent ever arrested

Protestants 9.0
Catholics 10.5
Jews 5.1
No religion 25.0

Protestants 13.9
Catholics 22.5
No religion 28.6

Protestants 16.0
Catholics 14.9
No religion 54.5

People with no religious affiliation are a lot more likely to have been arrested, especially Mexicans (caution: non-affiliated Mexican sample is small--11). It's interesting how black Catholics, unlike for other ethnic groups, are much worse than they're Protestant counterparts. Later, I'll try to find evidence to explain this.

Of course, a correlation between naming a denomination and obeying the law does not prove that religion has a salutary influence on behavior: it might be that morally inclined people both claim a church and avoid crime. The most we can say is that these numbers support the thesis that religion improves behavior.

Part of the "no religion" group is made up of intelligent, skeptical people who have qualities making them unlikely candidates for a career in crime. If we removed them, I imagine the arrest rates of the rest would be even higher.


  1. Anonymous4:51 PM

    The data does not include Asians, particularly East Asians such as Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans. I will bet donuts to dollars that these group score quite low on both religion and criminality. Steve Sailor had an article some time ago that showed a positive corellation between belief that religion is important to life and criminality, when broken down by race.

    Also, having spent much of my life in space development, libertarian, and transhumanist circles; I know a considerable number of highly intelligent people, and none of them are into the conventionally defined religion.

    Perhaps religion is like art; some people need it, others do not.

  2. I wonder what % of the black Catholics are from New Orleans, a high crime town?

    In Chicago African-American circles, black Catholics are more socially prestigious than black Protestants -- they often come from families with enough money to send kids to parochial school, and then the kids converted.

  3. I think most of these are people with generic religious worldviews who do not have a vital support network. To expand on this look to more specific beliefs. (sample size issues?) I suspect people who actively reject religious beliefs are doing better than religious people. Controlling for IQ, hmmm. . .

    As an atheist I might prefer that people belong to a church if they are going to be religious anyway. I don't think I share other atheists' enthuisiasm that the 'no religion' category has dramatically expanded in the past few decades. 'No religion' does not mean atheism/skepticism/scientism/secular values.


Which low IQ groups have low arrest rates?

DGo (@Go321) on Twitter wondered which lower IQ groups still manage to be well-behaved as groups. Criminality is a decent measure of behavio...