NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Value of Faith-Based Social Programs

July 7, 2003

In recent years there has been an explosion in empirical research on faith-based social programs. Most studies, including the most scientifically rigorous, find that faith moves social and civic mountains.

Consider the latest scientific literature on religion and crime:

A 1997 study by Byron Johnson, director of the Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society (CRRUCS) reports that New York state prisoners who participated intensively in Bible studies were less likely to be rearrested:

  • Participants were only a third as likely to be arrested a year after release as otherwise comparable prisoners who did not participate.
  • On average, eight years after release, the Bible studies participants remained arrest-free over 50 percent longer than the parolees in the comparison group.
  • Two years after release, participants were less likely to be rearrested than inmates paroled early from the program and than otherwise comparable inmates who did not participate in the program.
  • Only 8 percent of the Prison Fellowship program graduates, versus 20 percent of the matched comparison group, were incarcerated within two years after being released.

So, whether with respect to reducing recidivism rates, improving public health outcomes, accelerating volunteer mobilization, or other objective measures, the empirical evidence has become weighty enough for numerous top scientific organizations to begin taking religion seriously.

Source: John J. DiIulio Jr., "Not a Leap of Faith: The empirical case for faith-based social services," June 30, 2003, Weekly Standard


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