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Is Religion Associated with Entrepreneurial Activity?


  • Henley, Andrew

    () (Cardiff University)


This paper provides a quantitative investigation of the strength of the potential relationship between entrepreneurial activity and religious affiliation. The relationship between religion and economic development has attracted recent attention. A positive association may indicate that religion raises the social acceptability of entrepreneurial activity, by inculcating incentives to accumulate wealth and acquire personal responsibility, as well as providing social capital and may be particularly effective where state governance systems are weak. Institutionalist perspectives suggest that religious institutions may support definition of property rights. Economic benefits flow through reduced transactions costs. This paper engages these discussions in order to present a preliminary empirical investigation of the relationships which may exist across national boundaries between religion and entrepreneurship. Definitions of entrepreneurship are taken from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) studies for 2011 and 2012, focusing on the individual rather than on the business venture. Recent data on religious affiliation across countries are used to construct various measures of religious activity and diversity. Preliminary findings suggest, in particular, a significant association between GEM indicators and evangelical-pentecostal-charismatic Christian affiliation. The strength of these associations is offset by state regulation of religion. These findings suggest that attention needs to be paid to the potentially important role that certain forms of religion might play is providing a supportive cultural environment for entrepreneurship. They also suggest that policy-makers may wish to pay closer attention to the potentially supportive role that certain religious organizations might play in new business formation.

Suggested Citation

  • Henley, Andrew, 2014. "Is Religion Associated with Entrepreneurial Activity?," IZA Discussion Papers 8111, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8111

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Brigitte Hoogendoorn & Cornelius A. Rietveld & André Stel, 2016. "Belonging, believing, bonding, and behaving: the relationship between religion and business ownership at the country level," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 519-550, July.

    More about this item


    entrepreneurship; economic development; religion;

    JEL classification:

    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship
    • M13 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - New Firms; Startups
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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