Halloween pet costumes

October 2021

It’s that time of year again: time for a review of what Americans spend on Halloween vs. what they spend on foreign missions, and especially missions to the unreached.

As an aside, I sometimes see what Americans spend on dog food compared to what we spend on missions. I don’t think that’s really an apt comparison, because we have a responsibility for our pets, and they need to eat. But pet costumes are a different matter.

To start, mission spending:

  • Globally, the church worldwide spends about $48 billion per year on missions (CSGC).
  • MissioNexus’ 2021 Missions Data Summary Report says ministry income from mission sending agencies in 2020 makes up $2 billion.

How much is donated for mission to the unreached? That figure is unclear:

  • Variously, we estimate about 1% of the global amount, or about half a billion dollars.
  • By extension, we might estimate Americans donate about $20 million for mission to the unreached (1% of $2 billion)–but that’s a very fragile estimate.
  • By contrast, Americans will spend about $480 million on Halloween costumes for their pets (2019 figure).
  • So, Americans probably spend more on pet costumes ($480m) than on mission to the unreached ($20m), but not more than they spend on missions in general ($2 billion)

This is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. We are comparing what Americans as a whole spend on pet costumes to what (probably mostly) American Christians spend on missions. For example, what amount do American Christians spend on pet costumes? It’s probably less than $480 million. One very rough estimate might be: since 60% of Americans are Christians (roughly), they spend 60% of the $480 million on costumes. But there are lots of obvious challenges to that estimate: how many American Christians celebrate Halloween? how many would spend money on animal costumes? (Is it more or less likely that an American Christian who wouldn’t celebrate Halloween in a big way might have a costume for a pet when they open the door to give candy to neighborhood kids?) Based on these very nebulous data points, is it possible or likely that American Christians spend more on costumes than on mission? I could go either way with that estimate.