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Origins of Religiousness: The Role of Natural Disasters

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  • Jeanet Sinding Bentzen

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

Abstract

Across 800 regions of the World, this research shows that people are more religious when living in regions that are more frequently razed by natural disasters. This is in line with psychological theory stressing that religious people tend to cope with adverse life events by seeking comfort in their religion or searching for a reason for the event; for instance that the event was an act of God. This is termed religious coping. Natural disasters are a source for adverse life events, and thus one way to interpret my findings is by way of religious coping. The results are robust to various measures of religiousness, and to inclusion of country fixed effects, income, education, demographics, religious denominations, and other climatic and geographic features. The results hold within Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, and across continents. To eliminate bias from omitted variables and selection (perhaps religious people are less likely to move out of disaster areas as they see the disaster as an act of God), I further show that second generation immigrants whose mothers descend from natural disaster areas, are more religious than their counterparts with ancestors from calmer areas. Why should economists care? Evidence suggests that religiousness influences economic outcomes (e.g., McCleary & Barro (2003), Iannaccone (1998)).

Suggested Citation

  • Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, 2013. "Origins of Religiousness: The Role of Natural Disasters," Discussion Papers 13-02, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:1302
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. McCleary, Rachel & Barro, Robert, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth across Countries," Scholarly Articles 3708464, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    2. Tu, Qin & Bulte, Erwin & Tan, Shuhao, 2011. "Religiosity and economic performance: Micro-econometric evidence from Tibetan area," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 55-63, March.
    3. Philipp Ager & Antonio Ciccone, 2013. "Rainfall Risk and Religious Membership in the Late Nineteenth-Century US," Working Papers 2013-17, FEDEA.
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    7. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
    8. Williams, David R. & Larson, David B. & Buckler, Robert E. & Heckmann, Richard C. & Pyle, Caroline M., 1991. "Religion and psychological distress in a community sample," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 32(11), pages 1257-1262, January.
    9. Thomas Barnebeck Andersen & Jeanet Bentzen & Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Paul Sharp, 2010. "Religious Orders and Growth through Cultural Change in Pre-Industrial England," DEGIT Conference Papers c015_036, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
    10. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Corrigenda [Introduction to the Economics of Religion]," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 1941-1941, December.
    11. Albala-Bertrand, J. M., 1993. "Political Economy of Large Natural Disasters: With Special Reference to Developing Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198287650, November.
    12. Miles S. Kimball & Colter M. Mitchell & Arland D. Thornton & Linda C. Young-Demarco, 2009. "Empirics on the Origins of Preferences: The Case of College Major and Religiosity," NBER Working Papers 15182, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marianna Belloc & Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati, 2016. "Earthquakes, Religion, and Transition to Self-Government in ItalianCities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(4), pages 1875-1926.
    2. Philipp Ager & Antonio Ciccone, 2018. "Agricultural Risk and the Spread of Religious Communities," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 1021-1068.
    3. Litina, Anastasia & Palivos, Theodore, 2016. "Corruption, tax evasion and social values," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 164-177.
    4. Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, 2019. "Acts of God? Religiosity and Natural Disasters Across Subnational World Districts," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 129(622), pages 2295-2321.
    5. Philipp Ager & Casper Worm Hansen & Lars Lønstrup, 2014. "Church Membership and Social Insurance: Evidence from the American South," Discussion Papers 14-29, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    6. Philipp Ager & Antonio Ciccone, 2013. "Rainfall Risk and Religious Membership in the Late Nineteenth-Century US," Working Papers 2013-17, FEDEA.
    7. Anastasia Litina & Theodore Palivos, 2015. "Corruption and Tax Evasion: Reflections on Greek Tragedy," Working Papers 193, Bank of Greece.

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