Religious and Spiritual Beliefs Uniquely Predict Poverty Attributions

Brett A.Boeh Bergmann, Nathan R. Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we investigated how religion and spirituality were associated with internal and external attributions for the causes of poverty. Such attributions are important as they may shape the types of policies and interventions that individuals support to alleviate poverty. Across two studies with samples of Christian students from a Catholic university in the Midwest (Study 1: n = 189) and a large public Midwestern university (Study 2: n = 646), hierarchical regression analyses revealed that a religious variable, religious conservatism, was positively associated with internal poverty attributions. A spirituality variable, universality (i.e., a sense of shared connection and interdependence with others), was positively associated with external poverty attributions. These findings were present while controlling for demographic variables, political conservatism, and the Protestant work ethic and were consistent across Study 1 and Study 2. Overall, this shows the unique ability of religious and spiritual variables to predict these different types of poverty attributions, and that spirituality was a unique predictor for external poverty attributions over-and-above religious variables. These findings suggest the importance of considering both religion and spirituality when working with individuals and religious communities to alleviate poverty. Limitations and directions for future research and for working with religious and spiritual communities are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-485
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Justice Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Poverty attributions
  • Religious conservatism
  • Spirituality
  • Universality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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