Religion Explains Why Americans Love White Cars

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For the last three years, Americans have loved white cars more than any other color. (Prior to that, they preferred the equally exciting gray.) Why are they opting for white, when there's a panoply of reds, greens, blues, purples, and yellows to choose from? Justus Bender thinks religion has something to do with it, among other factors. He explains:

In general, when color theorists talk about white, they talk about religion. White is a very important color for Christians -- liturgically speaking, it's the color of joy and celebration; in the Catholic Church, it's the color worn by the pope. ... It's not unreasonable to expect that, however subtly, churchgoers would be influenced by their belief to think favorably of white and white things. Buddhists and Hindus associate white with truth and immortality. So does the high rate of religious belief in the United States influence choice of car color? To be sure, in Europe, where there are far fewer churchgoers, people are less likely to buy white cars.

Of course, it's not clear why religious beliefs would have had that effect only since 2007. Bender's other theories might hold more water: white is safer on the roads, it's a sign of economic caution, and it's a sign of widespread worry. Or, perhaps, like so many things, it's a reflection of the irrational, unpredictable vagaries of fashion.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.