(RNS) Protestant and Catholic women in the United States have grown unhappier since stores have stayed open on Sundays, according to a study by economists from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Chicago’s DePaul University.
The study found that the repeal of “blue law” restrictions on Sunday shopping has corresponded with lower church attendance for white women. Meanwhile, the probability of women becoming unhappy increased by 17 percent.
The study concludes that “an important part of the decline in women’s happiness during the last three decades can be explained by decline in religious participation,” said Danny Cohen-Zada, an economics scholar at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The researchers analyzed churchgoing habits of women from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey, which has collected information about American characteristics and attitudes from 1972 to 2008.
They looked at data from states that have repealed “blue laws” restricting Sunday commerce — Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Vermont — compared to others with no change.
The study followed up on a 2008 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which found that states that had eliminated blue laws saw church attendance decline while drinking and drug use increased.
Even when women noticed they had been happier when malls were closed Sundays, they didn’t resume their previous church habits, which the researchers speculated was due to a problem of self-control and the addictive nature of shopping.
“People choose shopping, like watching TV, because it provides immediate satisfaction,” Cohen-Zada said. “That satisfaction lasts for the moment it’s being consumed and not much longer than that. Religious participation, on the other hand, is not immediate. Instead, it requires persistence over a period of time.”