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Let us pray: religious interactions in life satisfaction


  • Andrew E. Clark

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics, IZA - Institute for the Study of Labor - IZA, PJSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Orsolya Lelkes

    (European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research - European Centre)


We use recent pooled survey data on 90 000 individuals in 26 European countries to examine religious spillover effects on life satisfaction. Own religious behaviour is positively correlated with individual life satisfaction. More unusually, average religiosity in the region also has a positive impact: people are more satisfied in more religious regions. This spillover holds both for those who are religious and for those who are not. The flipside of the coin is that a greater proportion of "atheists" (those who say they do not currently belong to any religious denomination) has negative spillover effects, for the religious and atheists alike. We last show that both Protestants and Catholics like to live in regions where their own religion is dominant, while Protestants are also more satisfied when Catholics dominate. The generic positive spillover effect of others' religion is not explained by social capital, crime, or trust.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew E. Clark & Orsolya Lelkes, 2009. "Let us pray: religious interactions in life satisfaction," PSE Working Papers halshs-00566120, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00566120
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina Fischer, 2007. "The bigger the better? Evidence of the effect of government size on life satisfaction around the world," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 267-292, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Van Praag, Bernard M.S. & Romanov, Dmitri & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2010. "Happiness and financial satisfaction in Israel: Effects of religiosity, ethnicity, and war," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1008-1020, December.
    2. Popova, Olga, 2014. "Can religion insure against aggregate shocks to happiness? The case of transition countries," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 804-818.
    3. Lubian, Diego & Zarri, Luca, 2011. "Happiness and tax morale: An empirical analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 223-243.
    4. Lehmann, Hartmut & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2011. "The impact of Chernobyl on health and labour market performance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 843-857.
    5. Headey, Bruce & Schupp, Jürgen & Tucci, Ingrid & Wagner, Gert G., 2008. "Authentic Happiness Theory Supported by Impact of Religion on Life Satisfaction: A Longitudinal Analysis with Data for Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 3915, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Andrew E. Clark, 2008. "Happiness, habits and high rank: Comparisons in economic and social life," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586049, HAL.
    7. Opfinger, Matthias & Gundlach, Erich, 2011. "Religiosity as a determinant of happiness," Open Access Publications from Kiel Institute for the World Economy 48360, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    8. Maite Blázquez Cuesta & Santiago Budría, 2014. "Deprivation and Subjective Well-Being: Evidence from Panel Data," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(4), pages 655-682, December.
    9. Gerd Grözinger & Wenzel Matiaske, 2014. "The Direct and Indirect Impact of Religion on Well-Being in Germany," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 116(2), pages 373-387, April.
    10. Andrew E. Clark, 2013. "Social comparisons, health and well-being," PSE - Labex "OSE-Ouvrir la Science Economique" halshs-00879776, HAL.
    11. Graafland, J.J. & Compen, B., 2012. "Economic Freedom and Life Satisfaction : A Cross Country Analysis," Discussion Paper 2012-038, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    12. John F. Helliwell & Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh & Anthony Harris & Haifang Huang, 2009. "International Evidence on the Social Context of Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 14720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Liesbeth Snoep, 2008. "Religiousness and happiness in three nations: a research note," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 207-211, June.
    14. Edward N Muller & Joe A Stone, 2013. "Incentives in Judeo-Christian beliefs: an economist's guide to heaven," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 33(2), pages 1300-1310.
    15. Olga Popova, 2016. "Suffer for the Faith? Parental Religiosity and Children’s Health," Working Papers 356, Leibniz Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies).

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    life satisfaction; religion; externalities;


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