tracked church attendance and levels of happiness among Americans living in states that had repealed so-called blue laws, which once required most retailers to stay closed on Sundays.A year-old version of the paper is here.
The researchers found that allowing stores to open on Sundays was linked with a decline in church attendance among white women, which led to a subsequent decline in happiness. Among black women, the repeal of the blue laws had no measurable effect, although that may be because the sample size was too small to draw any statistically meaningful conclusions.
Notably, the finding was true only for women. For men, the repeal of blue laws didn’t seem to influence church attendance or levels of happiness.
Since the repeal of blue laws, women are about 17 percent less likely to report being "pretty happy," and more likely to report being "not happy," according to the study, which is still awaiting final publication.
"People know there is a correlation between religiosity and happiness, but there’s not conclusive evidence that there is a causal effect," said William Sander, professor of economics at DePaul. "Our paper tends to provide more conclusive evidence that religiosity among women does affect happiness."
Where to start? Sunday closing laws are constitutional, McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 444-49 (1961), but are a restriction on freedom I don't favor. Although my observation is consistent with a correlation between faith and happiness, blue laws don't force anyone to attend church. And, in states without blue laws, one can attend church and still shop on Sundays. So, correlation isn't causation.
Still more striking is the Times' favorable coverage of the study. I thought "choice" was the lefty mantra. And I never expected the newspaper to be so relatively positive about religion--shouldn't it be touting First Amendment establishment clause rights?
The contrary spin reflects a larger, more threatening trend among progressives: anti-consumerism. The impact of the hit movie Avatar is one manifestation of a growing movement to roll back progress to return to a supposedly more bucolic past.
This is false and pernicious -- mistaken Malthusian run amok. Considered as a whole, life has been improved immeasurably by markets, capitalism and technology.
Don't misunderstand me: I'm not hostile to faith or church-going. I simply am suspicious when social scientists and the New York Times conspire to conclude consumerism is the culprit.
The Luddites said progress was impoverishing--and were wrong. The new economic study and the Times are too. Because there's no inconsistency between sermons and shopping, or link between shuttered stores and self satisfaction.
More simply, as law prof Ann Althouse quips in response to the NYT's cheerleading for blue laws, "Good Lord."