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Religious Conversion in 40 Countries

  • Robert J. Barro
  • Jason Hwang

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13689.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
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Publication status: published as Religious Conversion in 40 Countries Robert Barro1, Jason Hwang2, Rachel McCleary3 Article first published online: 1 MAR 2010 DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2009.01490.x
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13689
Note: EFG ME PE
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  1. Barro, Robert J, 1972. "A Theory of Monopolistic Price Adjustment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(1), pages 17-26, January.
  2. 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 541-63, July.
  3. McCleary, Rachel & Barro, Robert, 2005. "Which Countries Have State Religions?," Scholarly Articles 3710663, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. Robert J. Barro & Rachel McCleary, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 9682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bruce Sacerdote & Edward L. Glaeser, 2001. "Education and Religion," NBER Working Papers 8080, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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.
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