Religious organizations contribute $67 billion to Canada's economy: study

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Religious organizations contribute around $67 billion annually to Canada's economy, according to recently released research by an independent Christian think tank.

The report, titled “The Hidden Economy: How Faith Helps Fuel Canada’s GDP,” was authored by Brian Grim and Melissa Grim of Cardus, and released on Monday.

The researchers concluded that faith-based revenues and businesses contribute an estimated $67.48 billion to the Canadian economy.

This number was reached by factoring in an estimate of the value of goods and services provided by religious groups, by including food businesses that are faith-related, and also by including a valuation of church-sponsored substance-abuse recovery groups.

The $67 billion estimate was the “mid-range” number for the study, with the conservative estimate being $30 billion and drawn from just revenues of faith-based organizations and the liberal estimate being $689.5 billion, which factored all economic activity by religiously-affiliated Canadians.

“This mid-range estimate puts the value of religion to Canadian society at more than $67 billion annually. By way of comparison, this would make religion the country’s ninth-largest enterprise, just behind TC Energy and ahead of Bank of Montreal,” wrote the researchers.

“Or in terms of national economies, it would make Canadian religion the world’s seventy-second-largest economy, putting it ahead of more than 110 countries.”

Grim and Grim believed their lowest estimate was problematic because “it focuses on revenues rather than on the value of the goods and services provided by religious organizations.”

“We believe that our second estimate of $67.48 billion is a more reasonable estimate, because it takes into account both the value of the services provided by religious organizations and the impact of faith-related business,” they continued.

“We offer the third estimate of some $689.5 billion not as a preferred estimate but rather as an upper-end estimate that takes into account religiously affiliated Canadians’ overall contribution to the Canadian economy.”

The researchers acknowledged that there were some limitations to their findings, including the lack of factoring “negative impacts” like the occasional financial scandal among a ministry.

They also acknowledged that their work presumes that certain studies they cite on local religious financial impact can be extrapolated to apply to a national scale.

“Despite these limitations, we believe that the data and estimates discussed in this paper will be a useful starting point for further studies of the socioeconomic contributions of religion to Canada and perhaps other countries as well,” concluded Grim and Grim.

“The data are clear. Religion is a highly significant sector of Canada’s economy. Religion provides purpose-driven institutional and economic contributions to health, education, social cohesion, social services, media, food, and business itself.”

This is not the first time that Grim and Grim have analyzed the economic impact of religious organizations to a national economy.

In 2016, they had a study published by the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion which concluded that religion annually contributed $1.2 trillion to the United States economy.

Like the Canadian study, the researchers put forth a conservative estimate, which in this case totaled $378 billion annually, and a third, more liberal estimate of $4.8 trillion annually.

"For the first time, we have been able to quantify what religious institutions, faith-based charities, and even businesses inspired by faith contribute to our country," explained Brian Grim at a National Press Club event in Washington, D.C., in 2016.

"… in an age where there's a growing belief that religion is not a positive for American society, adding up the numbers is a tangible reminder of the impact of religion."

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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