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International Determinants of Religiosity

  • Robert Barro
  • Rachel M. McCleary

Two important theories of religiosity are the secularization hypothesis and the religion-market model. According to the former theory, economic development reduces religious participation and beliefs. According to the latter theory, religiosity depends on the presence of a state religion, regulation of the religion market, suppression of organized religion under Communism, and the degree of religious pluralism. We assess the theories by using survey information for 61 countries over the last 20 years on church attendance and religious beliefs. In accordance with the secularization view, overall economic development represented by per capita GDP tends to reduce religiosity. Moreover, instrumental estimates suggest that this link reflects causation from economic development to religiosity, rather than the reverse. The presence of an official state religion tends to increase religiosity, probably because of the subsidies that flow to organized religion. However, in accordance with the religion-market model, religiosity falls with government regulation of the religion market, Communist suppression, and a reduction in religious pluralism. Although religiosity declines overall with economic development, the nature of the interaction varies with the dimension of development. For example, religiosity is positively related to education and the presence of children and negatively related to urbanization.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10147.

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Date of creation: Dec 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10147
Note: EFG
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  1. Bruce Sacerdote & Edward L. Glaeser, 2001. "Education and Religion," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1913, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Azzi, Corry & Ehrenberg, Ronald G, 1975. "Household Allocation of Time and Church Attendance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(1), pages 27-56, February.
  3. Robert J. Barro & Rachel McCleary, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 9682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 2000. "International Data on Educational Attainment Updates and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. & Robert F. Hebert & Robert D. Tollison, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 646-671, June.
  6. World Bank, 2002. "World Development Indicators 2002," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 13921.
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