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In crisis, we pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 pandemic

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  • Bentzen, Jeanet Sinding

Abstract

In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for comfort and explanation. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Using daily and weekly data on Google searches for 107 countries, this research demonstrates that the COVID-19 crisis resulted in a massive rise in the intensity of prayer. During the early months of the pandemic, Google searches for prayer relative to all Google searches rose by 30%, reaching the highest level ever recorded. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that by April 1, 2020, more than half of the world population had prayed to end the coronavirus. Prayer searches remained 10% higher than previously throughout 2020, particularly so in Europe and the Americas. Prayer searches rose more among the more religious, rose on all continents, at all levels of income, inequality, and insecurity, and for all types of religion, except Buddhism. The increase is not merely a substitute for services in the physical churches that closed down to limit the spread of the virus. Instead, the rise is due to an intensified demand for religion: People pray to cope with adversity. The results thus reveal that religiosity has risen globally due to the pandemic with potential direct long-term consequences for various socio-economic outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Bentzen, Jeanet Sinding, 2021. "In crisis, we pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 pandemic," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 192(C), pages 541-583.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:192:y:2021:i:c:p:541-583
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2021.10.014
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    COVID-19 pandemic; Disaster; Psychological coping; Religiosity; Empirical analysis; Google search data;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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