The Covid-19 pandemic challenged much more than health-care systems—it also tested communities’ resilience, particularly their ability to handle economic shocks. While we often look to fiscal policy or other government actions to explain localities’ economic outcomes, an overlooked factor plays a significant role: religiosity.

Baylor University professor Byron Johnson and I researched whether communities with higher levels of religiosity before the pandemic fared better economically during the crisis. Comparing data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages between 2019 and 2023 with religiosity levels from the Religion Census in 2010 and 2020, we found that communities where religious adherence had grown over the decade showed notably better employment and business-establishment trends during the pandemic years.

Why would religiosity matter so much in times of economic hardship? Religious communities often act as social safety nets, creating strong networks of moral and practical support. The solidarity this creates can help cushion the blow during economic downturns. Faithful communities often rally in hard times, providing assistance to those in need, from food banks to job networking. Their collective resilience supports not just individual believers but also the broader community infrastructure.

This truth doesn’t just hold for traditionally religious communities. Any community with strong social bonds and a shared sense of purpose, whether based around religious faith or other collective beliefs and practices, can show similar resolve. Weathering a crisis is about more than beliefs—it’s about the networks and mutual support those beliefs foster.

Our study suggests that shared faith and participation contribute significantly to local economies, helping them bounce back faster and stronger. These findings are particularly relevant for policymakers and community leaders. Investing in community-building efforts and supporting faith-based and other local organizations can be an effective strategy to develop economic resilience. This approach can also serve as preparation for managing future crises.

The interplay between religious observance and economic resilience highlights the need for a broader understanding of what strengthens communities and makes them capable of collective response. In a world where economic shocks are inevitable, recognizing and bolstering these networks could be essential to enduring future challenges.

Photo: Maskot/DigitalVision via Getty Images


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