American entrepreneurs pray more frequently, are more likely to see God as personal and are more likely to attend services in congregations that encourage business and profit-making, according to a study by Baylor University scholars of business and sociology.
Their research, published in the current issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, is an analysis of data from the ongoing Baylor Religion Survey. A total of 1,714 adults chosen randomly from across the country answered more than 300 items in the survey, designed by Baylor scholars and administered by the Gallup Organization in 2010. The study is part of a larger research project on religion and entrepreneurship funded by the National Science Foundation.
Entrepreneurs are categorized in the study as those who have started a new business or who are trying to do so, said Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.
When it comes to entrepreneurs’ concept of God, “they tend to think of God as a more personal, interactive being, and that is tightly related to why they pray more frequently,” Dougherty said.
That finding raises interesting questions, said Mitchell J. Neubert, Ph.D., associate professor and Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.
The study raises interesting considerations for faith communities. Because of the country’s “competitive religious market,” congregations specialize to attract and retain individuals. Catering to entrepreneurial individuals may offer “a competitive advantage,” the researchers wrote.
Other questions the study raises are whether entrepreneurs pick a congregation that matches their entrepreneurial orientation — and whether a faith community can help prepare someone for entrepreneurship.
Neubert noted that entrepreneurs are critical to communities in terms of jobs and stimulating the economy. Both entrepreneurs and churches share goals of reaching out to the community, and they might benefit from partnering.
“How is religion related to entrepreneurial behavior? And more importantly, why?” the article asks. “Equally fascinating, how do religious individuals engaged in business creation reconcile the teachings of their faith on material gain with their entrepreneurial endeavors? Prompted by these initial findings, we hope others will join us to expand understanding of if, how and why, religion and entrepreneurial behavior intersect.”
*The research is part of the “National Study of Entrepreneurial Behavior and Religion.” Funding for the research came from the National Science Foundation. Other researchers were Jerry Z. Park, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at Baylor, and Jenna Griebel, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Baylor.
The article, “A Religious Profile of American Entrepreneurs,” is published in the current issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, volume 52, issue 2.