The Surprisingly Small Effects of Religion-Based Discrimination in Education
50 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2018 Last revised: 7 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 2018
Religions often preach preferential treatment of fellow believers, but the magnitude and economic implications of religion-based discrimination are largely unknown, partly because religiosity is often confounded with ethnicity. We analyze grading decisions in national matriculation exams in Israel, exploiting unique features that reveal student religiosity to the graders, and grader religiosity to the researcher. We find evidence of religiosity-based ingroup bias. Substantively, however, the effects of this bias are small. One reason is that religious bias is entirely driven by men. Furthermore, patterns of bunching in the grade distribution suggest the primary source of bias is the religious (rather than secular) men – a small fraction of the grader population. A second potential reason is that many graders live in integrated communities. Indeed, we find that living and working in close proximity to people with different levels of religiosity appears to attenuate religion-based discrimination.
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