Why so many churches in Las Vegas?

Robert, a loyal MR reader asks,

I lived there for four years and was always curious.  I guess the more sin, the more churches???

For background, here is a 1997 look at the numbers.  It seems the city has more churches than average in per capita terms.  Among the cities claiming the highest number of churches per capita are Nashville, Grand Rapids, Mich., Waco, Texas, Wheaton, Ill., and Berkeley, Calif. (Berkeley?)  Overall the South has more churches per capita than the rest of the country.

I would think that most of the churches in Las Vegas are for the residents, not the tourists, and thus the quantity of sin is not a major factor.  Why should the residents be especially sinful?  (Don’t forget that lots of sinful activities seem to be produced at constant returns to scale, so there’s not always free-riding upon the sin infrastructure for tourists plus parking is an issue.)  In explaining the number of churches, I would expect three factors to play a role:

1. Perhaps migrants to Las Vegas are more likely to come from the South.

2. Most of the population growth is recent, so churches serve a valuable function of social networking.

3. Las Vegas has no dominant established religion so there is much religious competition and thus many different churches.

But surely Jacqueline (and others) can set us straight…


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