#167 Values and the Poor

#167 Values and the Poor | The Christian Economist

The poor get rich by practicing a system of values.  Since Americans are less interested in religion, having children, hard work, community involvement, and education, the passing lane into wealth is wide open. 


The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled, “America Pulls Back from Values that Once Defined it.”  That means, there’s never been a better time to be poor in America.  The passing lane into wealth is wide open.  Here’s why.


This year, 39% said religion was very important in the survey. That was down sharply from when the Journal first asked the question in 1998 when 62% deemed religion to be very important.

In so much of my writing and speaking, I’ve made the point clearly that religious people are happier and richer than non-religious people.  Most of my data comes from the book by Arthur Brooks titled Gross National Happiness

I addressed a young woman in my sophomore class at DBU recently with the astounding assertion, “As a Christian, American woman, you are among the happiest people in the world.  If you want to increase that measure, just get married.”  Yep, it’s true: A Christian American married woman is the happiest person in the world.  And, three of those are choices.  The only one that you’re “stuck with” is the woman part, but that made her happier also. 

So, the message to the poor: You can CHOOSE to be happy AND rich because you can choose to be religious.


We are commanded to “Be fruitful and multiply.”  But according to the WSJ study, Only 23% of adults under age 30 said that having children was very important.  That’s really kinda sad.  It seems so obvious that God made women to reproduce.  Sorry, I typically give more meaningful economic support for my positions, but this one just seems so basic.  If women DON’T reproduce, what happens?  Well, what happens is what is happening now in every developed country: There are not enough humans to produce economic goods for each other, and we all get poorer. 

Ginger reminds everyone we meet, that the most viewed of my podcasts is #88 titled Don’t Fear the Future.  The reason I end every podcast with the phrase “Fear God, tell the truth, earn a profit,” is because if you fear God, you fear nothing else. 

But, accepting the invitation of Christ is a choice.  And fearing the future is a choice.  Fortunately, poor people can choose to follow Christ, and that makes them richer.  

Hard Work  

This measure is down from 76% to 62%.  Ok, here’s the real opportunity for the poor.  If 38% of the population is not interested in hard work, the poor can set themselves apart by wanting to work hard.  If there’s one thing that makes the poor richer, it’s hard work.  Those who do it, get richer, and those who don’t, get poorer.

I make this point every semester during the first meeting of my Econ class at Dallas Baptist University.  I show them the final grades of students from a previous semester and show that they almost perfectly correlate with attendance.  I tell them, “You think there are smart and dumb students in the class, but you’re wrong.  If you’re smart enough to be accepted into DBU, you can follow a two-dimensional graph and do simple math, so you have the ability to understand economics.  After that, it’s desire: Those who attend make higher grades.”  It’s really that simple, in general, ceteris paribus, all else being equal: Those who work hard get richer, and those who don’t, don’t.  Being in a generation where about half don’t want to work hard, makes it really easy for the poor to advance in society.

Community Involvement 

The number of individuals saying that community involvement is very important has dropped from about 42% in 1998 to about 23% today.  This is a pretty significant drop, and it’s a huge opportunity for the poor: If only a quarter of the population is interested in being involved, that means it’s incredibly easy for the poor to succeed.

And, by definition, MARKETS are community involvement, because it’s where suppliers meet demanders.  Think about it: If everyone were self-sufficient, we wouldn’t need each other.  If specialization didn’t exist, meaning we were all equal, we wouldn’t need markets to exchange goods and services with each other.  But God made us to be specialized in various ways, so we would need each other.  But only about three-quarters of the people realize this.  That’s a great opportunity for the poor.


Twelve years of education is free in America, and in most parts of the world.  I’ve told my sophomores at Dallas Baptist University that every year of schooling increases their income by 10%.  Looking back, that data is correct.  Looking forward, we don’t know.  Some HVAC and plumbers are making a lot of money these days.  And there’s an article in the WSJ about the shortage of electricians.

So, the first 12 years are free.  After that, it is really cheap.  The best students in my little town graduate from High School with a junior college degree for FREE!  Ok, that’s 14 years free.  I once did the math and concluded that a student living at home, attending the local JUCO (junior college) could pay her tuition by working five hours a week at a minimum-wage job.  OK, that’s the first two years.  The next two: Well, those who do well in the first two years are offered scholarships for the next two.  Those who don’t do well, are being told by the market that they should do something else.

Ben Carson spoke at DBU recently.  In a previous address, Ginger and I heard his story of growing up as one of two sons of a single mostly illiterate woman who cleaned houses for rich people.  She was bright enough to notice a difference between rich and poor.  Her observation: They read books, you watch TV, she told her sons.  So, she forced them to read a book and write a report on a regular basis.  Since she couldn’t read, the boys had to read the reports to her.  Get the point of the story: The poor have an escape route: Via FREE education.  That the academic rigor of our public education system is floundering is a topic for another podcast.  I mention it in #74 The Wall of Separation Between Education and State.

There is no American Ethnicity

American values are not scarce.  There is no American people group.  There are French, German, and Italian people groups.  There are Chinese, Japanese, and Philippine people groups.  But there is NO American people group.  Anyone can join, because it’s determined by a VALUE system, not ethnicity. 

Dennis Prager says you can find the three American values on a coin: Liberty, In God we trust, and e pluribus unum.  Today, I’ve suggested there are five: Religion, multiplying, hard work, community involvement, and education.

Christianity is not scarce.  You’re not BORN into Christianity.  Each person makes an individual decision to join it, much like they decide to join the value system of the United States.  So the kingdom of God contains people from all nations, all colors, all cultures.  That’s the strength of Christianity: It can flex to adapt to various cultures around the world.  Christianity is often considered a “Western religion,” and I understand that.  But Jesus was an Asian.  The church in Western Europe came about a few hundred years after his death.  To see Christianity as a Western or American religion is absolutely wrong.  It’s a religion that adapts to various cultures.  Don’t you think God would make it that way?  Really, you think God would discriminate because of skin color or ethnicity? 

And, I hope you’re getting some sense of my excitement about Christian Economics.  Because Christianity is that way.  It’s what economists would call a “public good.”  Because your neighbor has it, doesn’t mean YOU can’t.  There is no scarcity in God’s love.  It’s available to all: Rich and poor.  And, the avenue from poor to rich, just opened a little wider.




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