Consistent with our focus on conservatives, poverty and opportunity this week, Tyler Cowen offers some keen insights into whether religious conversion matters as poverty policy.
He is responding to this query:
Would a massive conversion of low-income people to Mormonism reduce poverty? Utah looks to have some good demographics, which must be somewhat due to to the fact that 60% belong to the LDS church: http://www.adherents.com/largecom/lds_dem.html
They have the lowest child poverty rate in the country, the highest birth rate but the lowest out-of-wedlock birthrate.
Cowen says: "A viable *policy*, no, but a viable solution *yes*. Many of the costs of poverty are sociological rather than narrowly economic per se."
Mormonism, as a variable, is difficult for political agents to manipulate, although they (possibly) can squash it. Raising this point, however, makes the poor look less like victims and more like a group partially complicit in their own fate. That framing does have “marketing” implications for the politics of how many resources the poor will receive. For this reason, liberals sometimes underrate the conservative point, because they do not like its political implications, and this leads liberals to misunderstand poverty. The conservatives end up misunderstanding poverty policy. Almost everyone ends up a little screwy and off-base on this issue."