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Religiosity: Identifying the Effect of Pluralism

Listed author(s):
  • Metin M. Cosgel

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Jungbin Hwang

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Chihwa Kao

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Thomas J. Miceli

    (University of Connecticut)

One of the most controversial questions in the study of religion has been the effect of pluralism on religiosity. Whereas sociologists of religion have traditionally predicted a negative relationship between pluralism and religious vitality, advocates of a supply-side approach have recently challenged this view, arguing that religious pluralism has increased vitality. Despite a large number of empirical studies devoted to this question, the results have been mixed. We argue that the main reason for the inability of scholars to reach a consensus on this important question has been the failure to deal appropriately with the endogeneity problem arising from omitted variables affecting both pluralism and religiosity. To remedy this, we offer a systematic analysis of influences on religiosity, combining information from the World Values Survey (1981-2014) with controls on the geographic and historical characteristics of nations and annual data on macroeconomic variables, relationship between state and religion, and religious pluralism. To address endogeneity concerns regarding the relationship between pluralism and religiosity, we exploit the variation among nations in their geographic distance to religious “capitals” of the world as an instrument. The OLS results reveal a negative and highly significant effect of pluralism on religiosity, which persists as we variously control for other factors. However, the association largely disappears when we correct for the omitted variable bias through the 2SLS analysis. Specifically, the magnitude and statistical significance of the effect of pluralism both fall sharply. Our results cast doubt on the causal interpretations of the negative relationship between pluralism and religiosity found by some studies, while offering a way to reconcile the conflicting results found in the literature.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2017-01.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2017
Date of revision: Jun 2017
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2017-01
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