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Catholic sex-abuse crisis boon for Baptists, new research shows


Daniel Hungerman

Did the Catholic sex-abuse scandal benefit other faiths? New research by economist Dan Hungerman shows it did.

The study by Hungerman, Stepan Family Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Notre Dame, shows a 2 million member drop in the Catholic population following the sex-abuse scandal and more than $3 billion in donations to non-Catholic faiths, with Baptist churches showing the most significant gains.

“Substitution and Stigma: Evidence on Religious Competition from the Catholic Sex-Abuse Scandal” will appear next week on the National Bureau of Economic Research website and later in print.

Using data from 1990 to 2007, Hungerman examined the impact of the sex-abuse scandal on religious participation, particularly non-Catholic religious participation. The results indicate that a crisis or shock in one religious group has significant spillover effects on other religious groups. In the case of Catholics and the abuse shock, Baptist churches benefitted most both financially and in membership growth.

“Over time, the scandal led to a rise in both religious non-affiliation and participation in non-Catholic traditions,” says Hungerman. [more]


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