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No Lds Bankruptcy Link?


Scott Lloyd

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A very interesting story on the front page of today's Deseret Morning News reports that a study undertaken by two Harvard Law School grads indicates that Mormons in Utah are no more likely than other residents of the state to suffer bankruptcy.

In fact, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fare slightly better than the general population when it comes to filing for bankruptcy, a study published last week in the Suffolk University Law Review said.

Here is the link:

http://www.deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,680194662,00.html

This, of course, counters the fallacious reasoning of some who have claimed on this board and elsewhere that Utah's high bankruptcy rates are to be blamed on the Church which expects its members to pay tithing and make other sacrifices.

While high bankruptcy among Church members in Utah is still cause for concern, the study suggests that critics have been too hasty in concluding the presence of the Church and the high concentration of Mormons in the state drives the high bankruptcy rates.

It is what I have known intuitively all along; I'm glad there's now a study to back it up.

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A very interesting story on the front page of today's Deseret Morning News reports that a study undertaken by two Harvard Law School grads indicates that Mormons in Utah are no more likely than other residents of the state to suffer bankruptcy.

Here is the link:

http://www.deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,680194662,00.html

This, of course, counters the fallacious reasoning of some who have claimed on this board and elsewhere that Utah's high bankruptcy rates are to be blamed on the Church which expects its members to pay tithing and make other sacrifices.

While high bankruptcy among Church members in Utah is still cause for concern, the study suggests that critics have been too hasty in concluding the presence of the Church and the high concentration of Mormons in the state drives the high bankruptcy rates.

It is what I have known intuitively all along; I'm glad there's now a study to back it up.

I not sure I would rely too much on the study for any conclusion. Just off the top of my head I see several problems, that an agenda driven study would overlook.

Does the study take into account the socioeconomic status of those filing?

LDS in Utah are mostly white. Whites have greater education level and income than minorities. Comparing LDS filing rates with the general population is not comparable, as the general population of Utah would likely have more minorities as a percentage of population.

More relevant would be a comparison of apples to apples. Bankruptcy rates for those Utah households having comparable income. IE what percentage of Utah households having income of $40 to $60K are LDS? what percentage of families filing bankruptcy with that income are LDS?

Did the study take into account family size?

The study mentions that LDS make up 62.4 percent of Utah's total population, but because they have large families, they would also make up smaller percentage of Utah total households. Children don't file bankruptcy.

Third, I would question where they got the info that 62.4 % of Utahs are mormons, and whether that number is derived from the same basis to conclude that 61% of the debtors are mormons

Its a good start, but I think there are some flaws that should be addressed.

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Ahhhhhh, statistics. Aren't they just a barrel of monkeys? I would definitely like to see more information on the data collection, sample size, and standard deviation to evaluate the study from a more objective POV.

Indeed. According to Coase's maxim " If you torture data long enough you can get it to confess to anything."

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Any correlation with Mormons and bankruptcy would probably be slight in favor or against even with a larger sample size. I guess it boils down to Mormons looking, acting and living life just as everybody else does, with about the same statistics and averages as non-members.

I thought Mormons considered themselves the light upon the hill that cannot be hidden? Living within the averages isn't exactly shining brightly as an example to the world. :P

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The first question I would ask is about the distribution of the surveys. Were surveys taken in areas of higher or lower than the mean LDS population in the state? That would be an easy way to skew results - use the 62.4% statistic for LDS in the state - and then take surveys in SLC, as opposed to Utah County (for example) where the active LDS population is much lower to suggest that LDS make up a lower percentage of Utah's bankrupt. Ironically, if they did that and got a 61% LDS figure, that would suggest the percentage of LDS filings was actually much, much higher.

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Study shows Utah has high bankruptcy rate = Must be the Mormons

Study shows Mormons donâ??t file bankruptcy more than others = I want to know how this survey was conducted. Who analyzed the data? What was their sampling? What was the income range? Did they own boats? How many of the people had helper monkeys?, etc., etc., etc.

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Any correlation with Mormons and bankruptcy would probably be slight in favor or against even with a larger sample size. I guess it boils down to Mormons looking, acting and living life just as everybody else does, with about the same statistics and averages as non-members.

I thought Mormons considered themselves the light upon the hill that cannot be hidden? Living within the averages isn't exactly shining brightly as an example to the world. :P

As I already mentioned, high bankruptcy among Church members is still cause for concern.

But my understanding of the critics' arguments has been that the Utah's bankruptcy woes are directly attributable to there being a high concentration of Mormons in the state who are called upon to pay tithing and make other sacrifices. Assuming that the same or similar environmental and social factors impact Mormons as they do the other residents of the state, one would reasonably expect, consistent with the critics' reasoning, that bankruptcy among Mormons in Utah would be far higher than it is, since, on top of everything else, they have to pay tithing and make the other sacrifices that go along with being members of the Church.

This study argues against such a notion. It would appear, on the contrary, that tithe-paying Mormons are no more likely than anybody else to suffer bankruptcy.

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Study shows Utah has high bankruptcy rate = Must be the Mormons

Study shows Mormons donâ??t file bankruptcy more than others = I want to know how this survey was conducted. Who analyzed the data? What was their sampling? What was the income range? Did they own boats? How many of the people had helper monkeys?, etc., etc., etc.

Yeah, isn't that interesting? They don't begin to scrutinize the facts until after their presuppositions have been threatened.

And so it goes. :P

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I not sure I would rely too much on the study for any conclusion. Just off the top of my head I see several problems, that an agenda driven study would overlook.

Oh, we understand quite well.

Study that shows the 'Mormons' are bad = objective.

Study that shows the 'Mormons' are not bad or different than anybody else = agenda driven.

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Yeah, isn't that interesting? They don't begin to scrutinize the facts until after their presuppositions have been threatened.

And so it goes. :P

Donâ??t get my wrong; I think there are some pertinent questions being asked. Such studies shouldnâ??t be blindly accepted at face value as there are many aspects that statistics (and statistical studies) inevitably fail to address.

The lack of this type of in-depth analysis and critical objectivity when the studies show LDS in a negative light is indeed very interesting.

[iâ??ve edited this thing three times now trying to fix verbiage. Basically, what Iâ??m saying above is that I agree with you Scottâ?¦ Oi vey]

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Don’t get my wrong; I think there are some pertinent questions being asked. Such studies shouldn’t be blindly accepted at face value as there are many aspects that statistics (and statistical studies) inevitably fail to address.

The lack of this type of in-depth analysis and critical objectivity when the studies show LDS in a negative light is indeed very interesting.

If statistical studies -- presumably undertaken with some degree of care -- are not to be blindly accepted, then neither should hasty conclusions drawn from news reports.

Yet I have continually seen supposedly intelligent people engage in the post hoc ergo proptor hoc fallacy, i.e. "Utah has high bankruptcy. Utah has many Mormons, and Mormons pay tithing. Therefore, Mormons must be causing the high bankruptcy."

It is an asinine conclusion, when you consider it.

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Donâ??t get my wrong; I think there are some pertinent questions being asked. Such studies shouldnâ??t be blindly accepted at face value as there are many aspects that statistics (and statistical studies) inevitably fail to address.

The lack of this type of in-depth analysis and critical objectivity when the studies show LDS in a negative light is indeed very interesting.

[iâ??ve edited this thing three times now trying to fix verbiage. Basically, what Iâ??m saying above is that I agree with you Scottâ?¦ Oi vey]

I understand what you are saying, and I appreciate the caution.

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The study mentions that LDS make up 62.4 percent of Utah's total population, but because they have large families, they would also make up smaller percentage of Utah total households. Children don't file bankruptcy.

I would challenge this assumption. Do you have a source to show that Mormon families in Utah these days are significantly larger than other families?

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Yeah, isn't that interesting? They don't begin to scrutinize the facts until after their presuppositions have been threatened.

As a matter of balance, I suspect this is the case for everyone.

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The federal government owns 67.1% of the real estate in Utah -- this is largely untaxed, unproductive land, forcing the citizenry to make whatever living they can on about 20% of the land (the State owns but 7.2%) -- which is ultimately the source of all wealth.

Thus Utah's potential wealth (especially mineral wealth) is lying unused in a lock box, both by federal regulation (the present house of reps. just made it impossible to get oil out of the Utah/Wyoming/Colorado oil shale) and federal reservation (the last US president's declaration of Utah's environmentally-friendly coal to be non-exploitable), and Utah's citizens suffer as a result. Just how are Utah's citizens to make a living if the sources of economic livelihood are placed forever out of reach? Nevada, similarly situated, turns to gaming. Are we to follow suit?

USU "It's amusing to see the usual suspects so tenaciously clinging to yet another busted myth" 78

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I would challenge this assumption. Do you have a source to show that Mormon families in Utah these days are significantly larger than other families?

I just got a copy of the study.

I'm still reading through it, but a footnote indicates that according to the 2000 Census, Utah's average family size is larger than the national average, but not by much: 3.57 as compared to 3.14. I don't know how this shakes out in terms of Mormon vs. non-Mormon families, but I'm guessing there's not a great deal of difference.

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I just got a copy of the study.

I'm still reading through it, but a footnote indicates that according to the 2000 Census, Utah's average family size is larger than the national average, but not by much: 3.57 as compared to 3.14. I don't know how this shakes out in terms of Mormon vs. non-Mormon families, but I'm guessing there's not a great deal of difference.

Okay then.

ASSUMING non mormon family size in utah is equal to national average 3.14, and

Mormons are 62.4% of the population, that means Mormons ave family size is 3.83.

Assuming that there are 2 million people in Utah,

that means there are 322,480 mormon households(57.4%) and 239,490 (46.6%) non mormon households.

This also assumes my math is correct, which is probably the biggest assumption.

My point is that children don't file bankruptcy. Therefore it make no sense to draw any conclusions by comparing mormons as percentage of total Utah population, as opposed to as a percentage of total Utah households.

When the percentage COULD change from 62.4 to 57.4, its a significant oversight for Harvard educated professional.

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Let's see. The sample size was 281? Seems awfully small, considering the number of home owners and bankruptcies. Was there an actual statistician involved, or just these two LDS lawyers?

Did the study ask whether the people are full tithe-payers? I believe that is the hypothesis that has been at the root of the assumptions. If they didn't test for that, of what value is the study? The respondents should not have been divided into Mormon/non-Mormon groups, but tithe-payer/non tithe-payer. That's the only way to test the hypothesis.

Also, this article says that 62% of Utahns are LDS, but we know that the activity rate is below 50%. The number of full or near-full tithe payers would be well below that.

Being LDS does not mean you pay tithing, so that identification means nothing regarding the hypothesis. The simple fact that you are a church member is very unlikely to affect your likelihood to declare bankruptcy. I've never heard that hypothesis advanced. It's always been about giving a large chunk of money to the church in tithes and other donations (including missionary support). A real study that tested for that would be of some value, if this is really that important to determine. But I think the only real value for that kind of study would be to either bash of defend the LDS church.

I'm more concerned about the already identified leading cause of bankruptcy in the country: disastrous medical costs. That could happen to anyone at any time. This is a national disgrace.

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The first question I would ask is about the distribution of the surveys. Were surveys taken in areas of higher or lower than the mean LDS population in the state? That would be an easy way to skew results - use the 62.4% statistic for LDS in the state - and then take surveys in SLC, as opposed to Utah County (for example) where the active LDS population is much lower to suggest that LDS make up a lower percentage of Utah's bankrupt. Ironically, if they did that and got a 61% LDS figure, that would suggest the percentage of LDS filings was actually much, much higher.

According to the study (a copy of which I have now obtained), the District of Utah is divided into four areas: North, North Central, Central and South. Surveys were obtained at debtor meetings in three of the four areas. The exception was the South area, which accounted for less than 5 percent of the total Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings in the state in 2004, the year the surveys were collected.

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It sounds to me (from their stats) that UTAH itself is the problem. Utah Mormons file bankruptcy at a higher rate than other people in other states, but within Utah, non Mormons file bankruptcy more often than Utah Mormons.

Am I interpreting their data correctly? :P

Just scanning quickly through the copy of the study I have, I would say your analysis seems to be correct. The cause (or causes) of Utah's high bankruptcy rates is still a mystery, but it would appear (from this study, at least) that teachings and practices in Mormonism are not the problem.

One interesting passage that I have just run across:

The percent of Mormons who tithe is not publicly known, but even under conservative assumptions Mormon tithe payers are not significantly affecting Utah's bankruptcy conundrum. In fact, they may even be filing for bankruptcy at a lower rate than non-tithe payers.

... Within a reasonable range of assumptions, whether or not a Utahn is a tithe payer does not dramatically alter her chances of filing for bankruptcy. In fact, if we relax the assumption that all of our tithe payers are or were "full tithe payers" it may be that tithe payers are less likely than non-tithe payers to file for bankruptcy. This result does not rule out the possibility that Mormons who normally tithe stop doing so when making less money or when they are otherwise under financial stress. This also wold cause tithe payers to appear less prevalently in our data than in the general population. But even under this scenario, the flexibility in contributing to the Church suggests that it was not the impetus behind the bankrutpcy of these former tithe payers, as they were able to stop payments when faced with economic hardship. Coupled with the fact that Mormons as a whole appear slightly less likely to file for bankruptcy than non-Mormons, the limited effect of one's status as a tithe payer suggests that Mormons are not driving Utah's bankruptcy rate.

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