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Religion and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa : Unbundling Religious Institutions


  • Amanda Mandzik

    (West Virginia University, College of Business and Economics)

  • Andrew T. Young

    (West Virginia University, College of Business and Economics)


Evidence of relationships between religious affiliation and the African AIDS pandemic is found in the medical, religion, and sociology literatures. In particular, studies have shown that predominantly Christian countries tend to have higher HIV rates than predominantly Muslim countries. These relationships have been largely unexplored by economists and we seek to identify underlying institutions using a panel of up to 43 sub-Saharan African countries for 1990-2010. Catholic antagonism towards condom use has often but proposed, but we report that the protestant (rather than the Catholic) population share drives the Christianity/HIV correlation. (Also, condom use actually correlates positively with HIV prevalence, though reverse causation likely plays a role). Male circumcision rates have a large negative effect on HIV prevalence. While male circumcision has been linked to Islam in this context, we report that the male circumcision effect is robust to controlling for the Christian population share while the correlation of HIV prevalence and the Muslim population share is not. There is no significant relationship between an index of social regulation of religion and HIV prevalence.

Suggested Citation

  • Amanda Mandzik & Andrew T. Young, 2014. "Religion and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa : Unbundling Religious Institutions," Working Papers 14-09, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
  • Handle: RePEc:wvu:wpaper:14-09

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gray, Peter B., 2004. "HIV and Islam: is HIV prevalence lower among Muslims?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(9), pages 1751-1756, May.
    2. North, Douglass C., 1989. "Institutions and economic growth: An historical introduction," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 17(9), pages 1319-1332, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Olper, Alessandro & Curzi, Daniele & Swinnen, Johan, 2018. "Trade liberalization and child mortality: A Synthetic Control Method," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 394-410.

    More about this item


    HIV; AIDS; religion; institutions; religious institutions; sub-Saharan Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development

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