Does Religion Affect Economic Growth and Happiness? Evidence from Ramadan

45 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2014

See all articles by Filipe R. Campante

Filipe R. Campante

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

David Yanagizawa-Drott

University of Zurich

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 18, 2014


We study the economic effects of religious practices in the context of the observance of Ramadan fasting, one of the central tenets of Islam. To establish causality, we exploit variation in the length of the fasting period due to the rotating Islamic calendar. We report two key, quantitatively meaningful results: 1) longer Ramadan fasting has a negative effect on output growth in Muslim countries, and 2) it increases subjective well-being among Muslims. We then examine labor market outcomes, and find that these results cannot be primarily explained by a direct reduction in labor productivity due to fasting. Instead, the evidence indicates that Ramadan affects Muslims' relative preferences regarding work and religiosity, suggesting that the mechanism operates at least partly by changing beliefs and values that influence labor supply and occupational choices beyond the month of Ramadan itself. Together, our results indicate that religious practices can affect labor supply choices in ways that have negative implications for economic performance, but that nevertheless increase subjective well-being among followers.

Keywords: Religion, Economic Growth, Subjective Well-Being, Happiness, Ramadan, Islam, Culture, Labor Markets, Values

JEL Classification: E20, J20, O40, O43, Z12

Suggested Citation

Campante, Filipe R. and Yanagizawa-Drott, David, Does Religion Affect Economic Growth and Happiness? Evidence from Ramadan (March 18, 2014). HKS Working Paper No. RWP13-052, Available at SSRN: or

Filipe R. Campante (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-384-7958 (Phone)

David Yanagizawa-Drott

University of Zurich ( email )

Sch├Ânberggasse 1
Z├╝rich, MA ZH 8001


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