I have a minor hobby of following experimental economics. These are the economists who study how panhandling outside a bread store compares to panhandling near a sewer or the impact of preparing a sermon on the Good Samaritan on whether a clergy student will help someone in need.

A good example of experimental economics in action is at https://www.npr.org/2021/03/04/973653719/california-program-giving-500-no-strings-attached-stipends-pays-off-study-finds

As for editorial economics (conclusions with humor,etc) https://freakonomics.com/podcast/does-religion-make-you-happy-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/. Editorial economics is more fun, but not always as data driven.

Experimental economists have studied lots of things. So of course experimental economists have studied the economic impact of paying tithing.

It turns out that paying tithing is a wash. Statistically people who pay tithing break even. That is, they roughly do better by about the amount that tithing costs them.

The results are “interesting” for economists. In that there are results (that is all many economists care about).

Otherwise, the results are kind of strange. The results obviously make you wonder if you can get that 10% improvement from paying only 5% and lots of other questions.

All of which questions economists are willing to explore if you will provide funding. So far, no one has been interested in more granular research who was willing to pay for the research to be done.

Otherwise… this leads to questions for our readers:

  • Shouldn’t tithing do more than break even?
  • What does the fact tithing breaks even say about complaints that tithing oppresses the poor?
  • Does tithing need to be paid to a church to have the economic effect or would any charity do?
  • Does this research affect your reading of the Widow’s Mite story? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesson_of_the_widow%27s_mite
  • Should tithing be about economics?


For the transcript on the broader question: