The stereotype of American Mormons (according to socio-demographic data) is true:
- We’re really, really white
- We’re well-off financially
- We’re highly educated
- We’re overwhelmingly Republican
However, economist Miles Kimball of the University of Michigan finds that this white, conservative demographic is quite different from the typical white, conservative American. In his post “How Conservative Mormon America Avoided the Fate of Conservative White America” over at Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal, he notes that
- Mormons invest in marriage with an avoidance of premarital sex (and thus out-of-wedlock births) and relatively low divorce rates.
- The Mormon prohibition of alcohol and tobacco leads to healthier and longer lives
- Geographic congregations known as wards function as “ersatz small towns” and plug Mormons into an extensive social network
Kimball makes several other observations with extended commentary. Check it out. It goes along quite well with some of Megan McArdle’s comments in a recent Bloomberg article (which was covered here at Difficult Run):
The highest income mobility in the country, it turns out, is found in Salt Lake City — almost three times higher than the rate in Atlanta, the lowest-ranked city…Salt Lake City is in the reddest of red state places — not a lot of taxes and transfers going on there. And yet it’s highly mobile, presumably because of the influence of the Mormon Church, which essentially runs the most comprehensive and effective social welfare system in the country…maybe in the world. There’s money and other help to tide you over in bad times, but arguably more importantly, there’s all the efforts of your ward to get you back on your feet. Churches do this sort of thing everywhere, of course, but in few places is it so comprehensive and organized. And unlike the government system, it’s combined with intense social support, and a community whose norms about things like work, marriage and family (and drinking and drug abuse) encourage what you might call a prosperous lifestyle.
Social capital and cultural factors are big players in economic well-being and should not be ignored.