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Religious Conversion in 40 Countries

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  • Robert J. Barro
  • Jason Hwang

Abstract

Questions about current and prior religion adherence from the International Social Survey Program and the World Values Survey allow us to calculate country-level religious-conversion rates for 40 countries. These conversion rates apply to religion adherence classified into eight major types. In a theoretical model based on rational individual choice, the frequency of religious conversion depends on factors that influence the cost of switching and the cost of having the "wrong" religion. Empirical findings for a panel of countries accord with several hypotheses: religious-conversion rates are positively related to religious pluralism, gauged by adherence shares; negatively related to government restrictions on religious conversion; positively related to levels of education; and negatively related to a history of Communism. Conversion rates are not much related to per capita GDP, the presence of state religion, and the extent of religiosity. Effects from the type of religion adherence are minor, except for a negative effect from Muslim adherence. The empirical results are robust to alternative specifications of the religion groupings used to construct the conversion rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert J. Barro & Jason Hwang, 2007. "Religious Conversion in 40 Countries," NBER Working Papers 13689, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13689
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13689.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert J. Barro & Rachel M. McCleary, 2005. "Which Countries Have State Religions?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1331-1370.
    2. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce I. Sacerdote, 2008. "Education and Religion," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(2), pages 188-215.
    3. Barro, Robert J & Lee, Jong-Wha, 2001. "International Data on Educational Attainment: Updates and Implications," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 541-563, July.
    4. Gruber Jonathan H, 2005. "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-32, September.
    5. Robert J. Barro, 1972. "A Theory of Monopolistic Price Adjustment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(1), pages 17-26.
    6. Robert J. Barro & Rachel McCleary, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 9682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Jonathan Gruber, 2005. "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?," NBER Working Papers 11377, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fabio Zagonari, 2011. "Which Ethics Will Make us Individually and Socially Happier? A Cross-Culture and Cross-Development Analytical Model," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 77-103, March.
    2. Lehrer, Evelyn L., 2008. "The Role of Religion in Economic and Demographic Behavior in the United States: A Review of the Recent Literature," IZA Discussion Papers 3541, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Hanson, Gordon H. & Xiang, Chong, 2013. "Exporting Christianity: Governance and doctrine in the globalization of US denominations," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 301-320.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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