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North Carolina: Religion’s Annual Socio-Economic Impact

Quantifying the impact of religion in North Carolina

North Carolina Congregations of all faiths and denominations collectively contribute $14 billion in value to the state’s economy each year. And religiously affiliated households account for more than $155 billion (80%) of the total household income in the state. 

By Brian J. Grim, Ph.D., and Melissa E. Grim, J.D.

Our research shows that religion annually contributes at least $1.2 trillion and as much as $4.8 trillion to the U.S. national economy and saves thousands of lives through congregational recovery support groups.

This current analysis of North Carolina is the first in an ongoing state-by-state study of religion’s socio-economic contribution to the wellbeing of US states.

Methodology: This study is based on the same methodology used in our national study and augmented by our newest study on the economic value of congregation-based addiction recovery support groups. For a description of the state-level adjustments, see the full methodology, p. 21-24).

Religious Demographics of North Carolina

The population of North Carolina has grown from 8 million in 2000 to 9.5 million in 2010 and is estimated to reach at least 10.5 million in 2020. There are an estimate 15,737 local religious congregations (churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc.) in the state, and approximately 80% of North Carolina adults are religiously affiliated (see methodology, p. 23-24).

As shown in the chart, congregations annually spend an estimated $2.5 billion on their operations ranging from providing jobs for tens of thousands of personnel, to paying for goods and service as diverse as flowers, sounds systems, maintenance, and utilities. Almost all being spent right in the local community.

In addition to local spending, congregations have other main avenues of socio-economic impact. For example, congregations are like magnets attracting economic activity ranging from weddings, to lectures, congresses, and even tourism, all contributing more than $2 billion year after year. For instance, congregations commonly report that people visit them to view their art and architecture.

Finally, and most importantly, it’s what congregations do in their communities that makes the biggest socio-economic contribution. These programs impact individuals and families in a variety of important ways, and are valued at nearly $4.8 billion yearly. In addition, the lives saved through the more than 5,000 congregation-based addiction recovery support groups are values at nearly $1.5 billion annually.

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In addition, there are approximately 3.9 million households in North Carolina with a median household income of about $50,320. Approximately 80% of adults in North Carolina are religiously affiliated, and their households account for about $156 billion (80%) of the total household income in the state. The intent in providing this upper end estimate is not to achieve exact precision, but to offer another plausible way to take into account the contribution of religion to the American economy (see pp. 19-20 of the methodology for a fuller discussion).

Case study in the news: Megachurch pastor Gailliard helps revive Rocky Mount’s spirits, fortunes (Edward Martin, Business North Carolina)