Friday, January 10, 2014

Government Funded - Church Provided Social Services: Part 2

As mentioned in a previous post I am working on understanding the determinants of favorable attitudes toward the use of funds by the government to finance social service provision through the church. The question is interesting and the answer is unclear. From stump speeches, executive orders, and extra documents a strong case can be made that efficiency was a strong determinant of favorability. The document called Rallying the Armies of Compassion puts it this way,

" … Federal assistance must become more effective and more tailored to local needs … Traditional social service programs are often too bureaucratic, inflexible, and impersonal to meet acute and complex needs of the poor. Reforms must make the Federal Government a partner with faith-based and community organizations that are close to the needs of the people …"

At the same time there are other arguments for government funds being directed toward social service provision through the church: representativeness. Government funds are collected and then disbursed without the option of some of those funds going to the church. Some people viewed this as a form of discrimination.

So we have at least two possible reasons that people might favor government funds being directed towards churches who provide social services: increased efficiency and representativeness.

As mentioned in the earlier post, I will be running regressions to determine the significant determinants of favorability and how well they correspond to each of these reasons. Once again, the data used is from the Religion and Public Life 2001 survey (where an efficiency question exists). Now that I have coded up the data the quick and dirty regression suggests the following:

Age - The age of the respondent is important. Older people are more likely to favor the church-state interaction while younger people are more staunchly opposed.

Education - Highly educated individuals (college grads and postgrads), on average, strongly oppose this church-state interaction. This significance remains even if we account for interaction terms between the educated religious. This is perhaps the most significant finding alongside efficiency arguments.

Religion - Catholic and Evangelical are more favorable to the the church-state interaction. The fact that so many other denominations are indifferent or negative toward this interaction suggests that representativeness is not what is driving favorability.

Political Party - Does not seem to matter. The closest item to significance is being a Democrat which negatively impacts favorability. However, it is not signifiant in magnitude or statistically.

Efficiency - The notion that churches would be more efficient than the government in providing these services is a significant and large determinant of favorability. Other factors that matter which we could include under the efficiency umbrella include: more compassionate social service administrators and the belief that religion changes lives. All of these factors are very significant with sizable magnitudes.

What do these preliminary results suggest? They suggest that favorability is determined primarily through the vehicle of efficiency arguments and a belief that churches can perform the job of social service provision better than the government. Obviously these results are preliminary and more work needs to be done to establish this in a more rigorous fashion but the arrow points in this direction.

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