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Do Urban Churches Help the Economy?

Historic congregations in America’s urban centers contribute around $1.7 million to their local economy each year, according to new research on the economic impact of sacred places.

By frequenting nearby businesses, hiring local workers and operating schools, faith groups strengthen their community’s social safety net and economy, researchers noted. Their report “suggests that the secular world has a significant stake in the health and vitality of congregations and sacred places,” said A. Robert Jaeger, president of Partners for Sacred Places, a nonprofit focused on supporting older religious buildings.

“Eighty-seven percent of the beneficiaries of the community programs and events housed in sacred places are not members of the religious congregation,” according to the new study, which was released Nov. 29.

Jaeger’s organization produced the “The Economic Halo Effect of Historic Sacred Places” report in partnership with Ram Cnaan, director of the program for religion and social policy research at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Results were based on a study of 90 historic congregations, located in Philadelphia, Fort Worth, Texas, and Chicago.