A new study reports that U.S. women who go to church instead of shop on Sundays are generally happier and claims that part of the overall decline in women’s happiness is explained by a decline in religious participation. Further, the study cited the repeal of laws which restrict Sunday business as a reason for the decrease in the level of religious participation.
Dr. Danny Cohen-Zada, an economics professor at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), collaborated in the study with DePaul University economics professor William Sander.
Prof. Cohen-Zada said the researchers found “direct evidence that religious participation has a positive causal effect on a person’s happiness.”
“Furthermore, an important part of the decline in women’s happiness during the last three decades can be explained by decline in religious participation,” he continued.
The repeal of “blue laws,” which bar stores from opening on Sundays, decreases the relative probability of being at minimum “pretty happy” compared to “not happy” by about 17 percent. Women who choose secular activities such as shopping are not happier, according to the study.
The repeal of blue laws was also found to have a negative effect on the level of religious participation of white women and therefore has a negative impact on their happiness.
Respondents did not return to attending church as much even after they noticed their decrease in happiness, researchers surmised, because of a problem of self-control or the need for immediate satisfaction.
"That satisfaction lasts for the moment it’s being consumed and not much longer than that. Religious participation, on the other hand, is not immediate. Instead, it requires persistence over a period of time," Cohen-Zada commented.
Other groups whose religious participation was not affected by repeals did not show an observable significant decline in reported happiness.
The researchers analyzed data from the General Social Survey (GSS) and selected respondents who live in states where there was a clear and significant change in the prohibition of retail activity on Sunday. They compared these respondents to those who lived in states where there was no change at all.
Data was limited to Catholics and Protestants because they were the most likely to attend church on Sundays.