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Religion and Political Economy in an International Panel

  • Robert J. Barro
  • Rachel M. McCleary

Economic and political developments affect religiosity, and the extent of religious participation and beliefs influence economic performance and political institutions. We study these two directions of causation in a broad cross-country panel that includes survey information over the last 20 years on church attendance and an array of religious beliefs. Although religiosity declines overall with economic development, the nature of the response varies with the dimension of development. Church attendance and religious beliefs are positively related to education (thereby conflicting with theories in which religion reflects non-scientific thinking) and negatively related to urbanization. Attendance also declines with higher life expectancy and lower fertility. We investigate the effects of official state religions, government regulation of the religion market, Communism, religious pluralism, and the denominational composition of religious adherence. On the other side, we find that economic growth responds positively to the extent of some religious beliefs but negatively to church attendance. That is, growth depends on the extent of believing relative to belonging. These results hold up when we use as instrumental variables the measures of official state religion, government regulation, and religious pluralism.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8931.

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Date of creation: May 2002
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Publication status: published as Barro, Robert J. and R.M. McCleary. "Religion and Political Economy in an International Panel." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (June 2006).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8931
Note: EFG
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  1. Barro, R.J., 1989. "Economic Growth In A Cross Section Of Countries," RCER Working Papers 201, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  2. Bruce Sacerdote & Edward L. Glaeser, 2001. "Education and Religion," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1913, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1998. "Law and Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1113-1155, December.
  4. 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.
  5. Rene M. Stulz & Rohan Williamson, 2001. "Culture, Openness, and Finance," NBER Working Papers 8222, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Iannaccone, Laurence & Stark, Rodney & Finke, Roger, 1998. "Rationality and the "Religious Mind."," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 373-89, July.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Robert J. Barro, 1996. "Determinants of Economic Growth: A Cross-Country Empirical Study," NBER Working Papers 5698, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Barro, Robert J, 2000. " Inequality and Growth in a Panel of Countries," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-32, March.
  11. World Bank, 2002. "World Development Indicators 2002," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 13921.
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