Congregational Recovery Support: $4.8-BILLION ANNUAL VALUE TO CANADIAN SOCIETY
Religion produces measurable economic contributions to the common good
Religion is an active force in the public, professional, and personal lives of many in Canada. Safeguards for religious freedom—including constitutional protection of freedom of conscience and religion as a fundamental right—help to ensure a dynamic religious marketplace, including the ability of each person to have a religion, change religions, or have no religion at all.
Our 2020 study, The Hidden Economy: How Faith Helps Fuel Canada’s GDP, provided the first documented quantitative national estimates of the economic value of religion to Canadian society.
The study’s mid-range estimate put the value of religion to Canadian society at more than $67 billion annually. Of that, $4.8 billion comes from congregation-supported substance abuse recovery programs.
CONGREGATIONAL SUBSTANCE-ABUSE RECOVERY SUPPORT VALUATION
Our study adds an additional category of impact not included in the previous congregational valuations by Grim and Grim (2016), Cnaan (2015), and Daly (2016). Grim and Grim (2019) found that it is especially important to take into account the value of lives saved through recovery support programs hosted in local congregations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery.
Grim and Grim (2019) found that each Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Celebrate Recovery support-group meeting in a church was responsible for saving 0.16 lives annually. Our analysis of AA finds that on average, nearly half (47%) of all AA groups in Canada meet in churches or other religious congregation meeting places. For example, of the 466 AA meetings in the Toronto area, 332 (71%) meet in churches (Greater Toronto Area Intergroup n.d.), and our analysis finds that varying percentages meet in churches in other parts of Canada (e.g., Vancouver 37%, Quebec City 39%, St. John’s 44%, and Halifax 45%). Overall, AA reports 5,091 groups with 84,891 members in Canada (Alcoholics Anonymous 2019). If 47 percent of those are in houses of worship, that would be 2,392. In addition, there are 72 Celebrate Recovery groups meeting in churches across Canada, bringing the total to 2,464. And if 0.16 lives are saved per group per year, that would be 394 lives saved annually. This estimation may seem by some as overly conservative, especially because a common story of AA members is that, were it not for AA, they would be in jail, institutionalized, or dead. Furthermore, being in recovery produces vast social benefits for quality of life and relationships with family, employer, and others, which we do not attempt to measure here. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to incorporate into our estimates some theoretically and empirically relevant factors.
Grim and Grim (2019) then used the US government’s Valuation of a Statistical Life (VSL) to estimate the economic value of these lives saved (median estimate is $US 9.4 million / $C 12.21 million). Using this same figure, the value of recovery support groups located in congregations is $C 4.81 billion per year, as shown in table 10.