Origins of Religiousness: The Role of Natural Disasters

41 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2013

See all articles by Jeanet Sinding Bentzen

Jeanet Sinding Bentzen

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Date Written: February 18, 2013


Across 800 regions of the World, this research shows that people are more religious when living in regions that are more frequently razed by natural disasters. This is in line with psychological theory stressing that religious people tend to cope with adverse life events by seeking comfort in their religion or searching for a reason for the event; for instance that the event was an act of God. This is termed religious coping. Natural disasters are a source for adverse life events, and thus one way to interpret my findings is by way of religious coping. The results are robust to various measures of religiousness, and to inclusion of country fixed effects, income, education, demographics, religious denominations, and other climatic and geographic features. The results hold within Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, and across continents. To eliminate bias from omitted variables and selection (perhaps religious people are less likely to move out of disaster areas as they see the disaster as an act of God), I further show that second generation immigrants whose mothers descend from natural disaster areas, are more religious than their counterparts with ancestors from calmer areas. Why should economists care? Evidence suggests that religiousness influences economic outcomes (e.g., McCleary & Barro (2003), Iannaccone (1998)).

Suggested Citation

Bentzen, Jeanet, Origins of Religiousness: The Role of Natural Disasters (February 18, 2013). Univ. of Copenhagen Dept. of Economics Discussion Paper No. 13-02, Available at SSRN: or

Jeanet Bentzen (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.

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