Religion, Spirituality, and Financial Decision-Making

Statement of Problem:

Globally, around 82% of people report that religion has a major influence in their lives (Crabtree 2010). In the United States, 92% of Americans believe in God (Newport 2011) and 78% report that religion is at least a “fairly important” part of their everyday lives (Gallup 2013). Although the necessity of considering religion to comprehend human behaviors has for long been emphasized by social psychologists (Allport 1950; James 1902), consumer researchers have only recently become more interested in examining the effects of religion on consumer behavior (Mathras et al. 2016).

Consumers’ core values are shaped by religiosity (Minton and Kahle 2014). As highlighted by Mathras et al. (2016), researchers have studied the religious-like qualities of consumer culture (e.g., Cult of Macintosh, Belk and Tumbat 2005; consumers of Volvos and Apple computers, Muniz and O’Guinn 2001). Other consumer psychologists have empirically examined the influence of religious background on various aspects of consumer behavior, such as purchase risk aversion (Delener 1990), marketplace attributions
(Minton 2016), selected retail store patronage behavior (McDaniel and Burnett 1990), and consumer product and store-switching behavior (Choi 2010). However, it has been argued that further theoretical and quantitative research is required to expand the understanding of religion’s impact on consumption (Mathras et al. 2016; Wilkes et al. 1986).

Specifically, research is lacking in the connection between religion/spirituality and consumer financial decision-making – a high involvement area in consumers’ lives with a direct impact on their wellbeing and welfare. In each phase of analysis with TCR group participants, we will seek to identify positive and negative outcomes of the effects of religion/spirituality on financial decision-making for both individuals and societies.

Goal of Proposed Track:

We seek to gather practitioners with scholars who are interested in examining the role of

religion/spirituality in the lives of consumers and in marketplaces. Importantly, approximately three non- academicians will be invited to provide diversity in viewpoint, methodologies and familiarity with different worldviews. Bringing non-academicians together with scholars, we aim at submitting a paper to the special issue in the Journal of Business Research entitled: “Transformative Consumer Research: Increasing Impact through Relational Engagement.” The targeted paper will empirically investigate the role of religion afflation, degree of religiosity, and spirituality is shaping financial decision-making. This collaborative scholarly research will aim at providing self-awareness to consumers, insight for businesses, and recommendations for policy makers and government regarding the role of religiosity/spirituality in financial decision-making. Additionally, this research will provide evidence-based strategies to improve the role of religiosity in informing consumers’ financial literacy and decision-making.

Invited non-academicians (e.g., religion leaders, business leaders) need to be committed to an objective treatment of all focal worldviews and religions. In bringing together these participants, we seek to empower marketplace stakeholders (such as consumers, businesses, non-profits, and policy makers) in better understanding religion/spirituality as a key aspect of consumer decisions regarding finances. The following non-academic professionals have been contacted and expressed interest in participating in our track and attending TCR 2017.

In addition to these specific contacts, other religious leaders of eastern religious faiths (e.g., Buddhists, Hindus) will be reached out to closer to the conference date to see their willingness to attend a portion of the conference to share how they feel their religious tradition influences their follower’s financial decision-making habits.

Track Structure (pre, during, and post conference activities):

1. Preconference

  • October 1, 2016: Track chairs will issue a general call for participation in this track.
  • December 21, 2016: Approximately five (4 – 6) academic researchers with a demonstrated interestor prior work in this area will be selected to participate in addition to approximately three (2-3)practitioners with related industry experience.
  • Prior to the conference, each participant will be asked to:
    • March 1, 2017 (sub-topic assignments made): Review the literature on financial decision- making and religiosity. Track chairs will assign a sub-topic (inclusive of selected relevant papers) within the broader domain of religion and financial decision making to each participant. Academics will be asked to review papers in academic journals, whereas practitioners will be asked to review articles in relevant practitioner outlets. Participants will be encouraged to identify further papers/articles within their assigned sub-domain, with an emphasis on a multi-religion and multidisciplinary review.
    • June 1, 2017 (summaries due): Write a 2-3 page single spaced summary of the assigned sub-topic. The summary needs to conclude with (1) practitioners/policy outcomes and (2) the most pressing un-explored research questions in the sub-topic area.iii. June 10, 2017 (check-in w/ participants to ensure interviews have been conducted): Interview at least one business/employee regarding the assigned sub-topic and further explore relevant managerial and policy making dilemmas. Summarize the interview in one PowerPoint slide with direct quotes (if allowed by the interviewee).
    • June 15, 2017 (slides due): Prepare a presentation (five-slide PowerPoint deck) loaded with photos and minimal text covering (1) the literature review, (2) research questions,
      (3) practitioner/policy outcomes, and (4) interview to present during the TCR session. Ten color print-outs (two slides per side) of the slide deck will be brought by each participant to share with others in the session. Presenters should plan for a 10 minute presentation.

Conference Day 1,

Morning session

Analysis and discussion during the conference will be done in a professional manner. All participants will be briefed on expectations for open sharing and the respect of individuals (and their adherence or non-adherence to any of the worldviews represented in the track at the conference).

  • 9:00 – 9:45 Icebreaker
  • 10:00 – 12:00 PowerPoint session: Participants will take turns giving the presentation of their five-slide PowerPoint deck. To keep the session on track, only minimal discussion will be allowed between presentations. Instead, each participant will be provided with a pack of sticky notes and encouraged to write poignant thoughts or research questions on the sticky notes, write initials at the bottom, and then stick these on the wall in pre-set areas for each sub-topic on the wall designated by painter’s tape.

Afternoon session

  • 2:00 – 5:00: The participants will summarize/synthesize/discuss what was learned during the morning session. This will involve drawing synergies from the sticky notes written during the morning session where topics are laid out visually to start the basics of a framework
  • 2:00-3:00: The goal for the first hour is to identify themes within the two main categories: (1) how consumers’ religion/spirituality influences financial decision making and (2) how market actors (e.g., financial service providers, policy makers) influence financial decision making with regard to religion/spirituality.
  • 3:00 – 4:00: The goal for the second hour is to identify similarities, contradictions, and intersections among religion/spirituality, financial decision-making, and market actors.
  • 4:00 – 5:00: The goal for the third hour is to identify positive and negative outcomes for individuals and society, as well as to develop research priorities regarding religion/spirituality and consumers’ financial decision-making. By the end of day one, the goal is to have a rough framework outlining relationships among sub-topics, consumers/market actors, various religious/spiritual traditions, and elements of financial decision-making.

Conference Day 2,

Morning session

  • 9:00 – 11:30: The primary goal is to build on the rough conceptual framework from the afternoon session of day 1 to develop an outline for an empirical paper, inclusive of study designs, before participants leave.
  • 11:30 – Noon: A secondary goal is to have participants commit to sections of the paper they will work on (including, but not limited to: writing the introduction, merging literature reviews, filing IRB, funding studies or offering lab space for studies, putting together study questions, analyzing data, writing up results, polishing paper and writing conclusion).

Post Conference Plans:

  1. To bring together and disseminate knowledge derived from the work of the track participants at the conference, we will work to publish an empirical paper in the Journal of Business Research special issue entitled: “Transformative Consumer Research: Increasing Impact through Relational Engagement.” Other outlet such as JPP&M, JCP, or JBR will be considered for the paper and potential subsequent papers. Additionally, outlets relevant to the practitioners attending the conference will be considered for shorter articles that are more immediately actionable by practitioners in the financial industry.
  2. To ensure timely follow-through with roles self-selected during the TCR conference, the conference co-chairs will act as leaders to set deadlines, check in with participants, and fill in missing roles, as needed. To start, a follow-up email will be sent with a deadline for everyone to share notes, paper drafts, etc. that were created during the TCR conference.

Please contact the corresponding track chairs for questions about this track:

Elizabeth Minton

(University of Wyoming)

Samer Sarofim

University of Kansas

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