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Lessons in faith can help boost income of poor, says new report from Philippines

09 March 2018

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A NEW study suggests that listening to preaching about religious faith can help to boost the income and improve the lives of those living in poverty.

The research, by Innovations for Poverty Action and the Evangelical charity International Care Ministries (ICM), took place in the Philippines, where ICM works to help the poorest through the “Transform” programme: a series of weekly lessons on business, health, and religion.

For the purposes of the study, more than 6000 people, who had had no previous contact with ICM, were given the lessons. Different communities were given different parts of the teaching over six months: some received just the economic parts, while others received only preaching from ICM.

At the end of the process, incomes of those who had been preached to had increased by 9.2 per cent over those who had not been taught about faith or religion. This increase was largely because people moved from agricultural jobs to self-employment or fishing, and small pay-rises had had a significant impact in the communities.

Those who had been preached to, however, also reported that, although they felt more religious, they were not more satisfied with their lives, and were feeling worse about their economic status, despite their pay rise.

ICM said that it was “encouraged that this study provides evidence of Transform’s impact on poverty, six months after the program was completed. . . It is exciting that ICM is slowly gaining insight into how our programs alleviate poverty, and, while many questions remain, we feel that we are making real progress.”

The study was conducted by the economists Professor Dean Karlan, of Northwestern University, Illinois; Professor James Choi, of Yale University; and Dr Gharad Bryan, of the London School of Economics.

The researchers said that the study “demonstrates that a faith-based curriculum can change participants’ religiosity and increase incomes”.

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