Letters: Church's 'negative' score result of 'counting error'

Posted: February 07, 2011

We were very pleased with David O'Reilly's coverage of our pilot "Economic Halo" research project highlighting the significant positive impact congregations have on Philadelphia's economy ("What's a church worth?" Tuesday).

To clarify one point, however, regarding an apparent negative value for the Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany: This is due to our use of "rough" census tract data in comparing housing values around a congregation with housing values in neighboring census tracts. We note in the report that this methodology does not allow us to draw firm conclusions for this factor, and will be modified in future studies. Put differently, the negative score is the result of a counting error.

So, taking this item out of the total valuation, St Luke's has a positive annual economic impact of about $1.3 million. As anyone who knows the range of social programs sponsored by this church will attest, this number better reflects its value to the community.

We apologize to the church and its members for any misperceptions that came about from our study and its ever-improving methodology.

Ram A. Cnaan

Director, Program for Religion and Social Policy Research

University of Pennsylvania

Tuomi Joshua Forrest

Associate Director, Partners for Sacred Places

Philadelphia

tforrest@sacredplaces.org

www.sacredplaces.org

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