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Does Religiosity Promote or Discourage Social Trust? Evidence from Cross-Country and Cross-State Comparisons


Niclas Berggren


Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Christian Bjørnskov


Aarhus University - Department of Economics and Business; Center for Political Studies

October 10, 2009


Abstract:     
We look at the effect of religiosity on social trust, defined as the share of a population that thinks that people in general can be trusted. This is important since social trust is related to many desired outcomes, such as growth, education, democratic stability and subjective well-being. The effect of religiosity is theoretically unclear: while all major religions call for behaving well to others, religious groups may primarily trust people in their own groups and distrust others, as well as cause division in the broader population. We make use of new data from the Gallup World Poll for 105 countries and the U.S. states, measuring religiosity by the share of the population that answers yes to the question “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”. Our empirical results, making use of regression analysis whereby we control for other possible determinants of social trust and, by using instrumental variables, for the risk of reverse causality, indicate a robust, negative effect of religiosity, both internationally and within the US. When interacting religiosity with the degree of religious fractionalization, we find that the negative effect occurs above a rather low threshold level of fractionalization, where it increases monotonically, in line with our theoretical prediction.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 49

Keywords: trust, religiosity, religion, social capital

JEL Classification: O57, Z12, Z13

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Date posted: September 26, 2009 ; Last revised: November 13, 2009

Suggested Citation

Berggren, Niclas and Bjørnskov, Christian, Does Religiosity Promote or Discourage Social Trust? Evidence from Cross-Country and Cross-State Comparisons (October 10, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1478445 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1478445

Contact Information

Niclas Berggren
Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )
Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden
HOME PAGE: http://www.ifn.se/nb
Christian Bjørnskov (Contact Author)
Aarhus University - Department of Economics and Business ( email )
Fuglesangs Allé 4
Aarhus V, DK-8210
Denmark
Center for Political Studies
Landgreven 3
Copenhagen K, DK-1301
Denmark
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