Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Does religiosity promote property rights and the rule of law?


Social and cultural determinants of economic institutions and outcomes have come to the forefront of economic research. We introduce religiosity, measured as the share for which religion is important in daily life, to explain institutional quality in the form of property rights and the rule of law. Previous studies have only measured the impact of membership shares of different religions, with mixed results. We find, in a cross-country regression analysis comprising up to 112 countries, that religiosity is negatively related to our institutional outcome variables. This only holds in democracies (not autocracies), which suggests that religiosity affects the way institutions work through the political process. Individual religions are not related to our measures of institutional quality.

Corresponding author
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D. Acemoglu and S. Johnson (2005), ‘Unbundling Institutions’, Journal of Political Economy, 113 (5): 949995.

D. Acemoglu , S. Johnson , and J. A. Robinson (2005), ‘Institutions as a Fundamental Cause of Long-run Growth’, in P. Aghion and S. N. Durlauf (eds.), Handbook of Economic Growth: Volume 1A, Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 385472.

P. Aghion , A. Alesina , and F. Trebbi (2004), ‘Endogenous Political Institutions’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 119 (2): 565611.

A. Alesina , A. Devleeschauwer , W. Easterly , S. Kurlat , and R. Wazciarg (2003), ‘Fractionalization’, Journal of Economic Growth, 8 (2): 155194.

M. Ayyagari , A. Demirgüç-Kunt , and V. Maksimovic (2006), ‘How Well Do Institutional Theories Explain Firms’ Perceptions of Property Rights?’, Review of Financial Studies, 21 (4): 18331871.

C. J. Baier and B. R. E. Wright (2001), ‘“If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments”: A Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Religion on Crime’, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38 (1): 321.

R. J. Barro and R. M. McCleary (2005), ‘Which Countries Have State Religions?’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 120 (4): 13311370.

N. Berggren (1997), ‘Rhetoric or Reality? An Economic Analysis of the Effects of Religion in Sweden’, Journal of Socio-Economics, 26 (6): 571596.

N. Berggren and C. Bjørnskov (2011), ‘Is the Importance of Religion in Daily Life Related to Social Trust? Evidence from Cross-Country and Cross-State Comparisons’, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 80 (3): 459480.

N. Berggren and H. Jordahl (2005), ‘Does Free Trade Really Reduce Growth? Further Testing Using the Economic Freedom Index’, Public Choice, 122 (1–2): 99114.

T. Besley , T. Persson , and D. M. Sturm (2010), ‘Political Competition, Policy and Growth: Theory and Evidence from the U.S. States’, Review of Economic Studies, 77 (4): 13291352.

C. Bjørnskov (2008), ‘The Growth–Inequality Association: Government Ideology Matters’, Journal of Development Economics, 87 (2): 300308.

C. Bjørnskov (2010), ‘How Does Social Trust Lead to Better Governance? An Attempt to Separate Electoral and Bureaucratic Mechanisms’, Public Choice, 144 (1–2): 323346.

T. Brambor , W. R. Clark , and M. Golder (2006), ‘Understanding Interaction Models: Improving Empirical Analysis’, Political Analysis, 14 (1): 6382.

J. A. Cheibub , J. Gandhi , and J. R. Vreeland (2010), ‘Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited’, Public Choice, 143 (1–2): 67101.

S. N. Durlauf , A. Kourtellos , and C. M. Tan (2011), ‘Is God in the Details? A Reexamination of the Role of Religion in Economic Growth’, Journal of Applied Econometrics, 27 (7): 10591075.

E. Gundlach and M. Paldam (2009), ‘A Farewell to Critical Junctures: Sorting Out Long-Run Causality of Income and Democracy’, European Journal of Political Economy, 25 (3): 340354.

L. C. J. M. Halman and V. J. R. Draulans (2006), ‘How Secular is Europe?’, British Journal of Sociology, 57 (2): 263288.

P. Heaton (2006), ‘Does Religion Really Reduce Crime?’, Journal of Law & Economics, 49 (1): 147172.

L. R. Iannaccone , R. Finke , and R. Stark (1997), ‘Deregulating Religion: The Economics of Church and State’,Economic Inquiry, 35 (2): 350364.

H. H. Kelejian (1971), ‘Two-Stage Least Squares and Econometric Systems Linear in Parameters but Nonlinear in the Endogenous Variables’, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 66 (334): 373374.

S. Knack (2002), ‘Social Capital and the Quality of Government: Evidence from the U.S. States’, American Journal of Political Science, 46 (4): 772785.

R. La Porta , F. Lopez-de-Silanes , A. Shleifer , and R. W. Vishny (1999), ‘The Quality of Government’, Journal of Law, Economics & Organization, 15 (1): 222279.

R. Levine (2005), ‘Law, Endowments and Property Rights’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19 (3): 6188.

R. Lynn , J. Harvey , and H. Nyborg (2008), ‘Average Intelligence Predicts Atheism Rates Across 137 Nations’, Intelligence, 37 (1): 1115.

R. M. McCleary and R. J. Barro (2006), ‘Religion and Economy’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20 (2): 4972.

D. C. Mueller (2009), Reason, Religion & Democracy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

H. Nyborg (2008), ‘The Intelligence-Religiosity Nexus: A Representative Study of White Adolescent Americans’, Intelligence, 37 (1): 8193.

G. A. O'Donnell (2004), ‘Why the Rule of Law Matters’, Journal of Democracy, 15 (4): 3246.

R. Rigobón and D. Rodrik (2005), ‘Rule of Law, Democracy, Openness, and Income: Estimating the Interrelationships’, Economics of Transition, 13 (3): 533564.

M. Rode and J. D. Gwartney (2012), ‘Does Democratization Facilitate Economic Liberalization?’, European Journal of Political Economy, 28 (4): 607619.

D. Rodrik , A. Subramanian , and F. Trebbi (2004), ‘Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions over Geography and Integration in Economic Development’, Journal of Economic Growth, 9 (2): 131165.

A. F. Shariff and M. Rhemtulla (2012), ‘Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates’, PLoS ONE, 7 (6): e39048.

R. Wilson (1997), Economics, Ethics and Religion: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Economic Thought, New York, NY: New York University Press.

D. C. Wisneski , B. L. Lytle , and L. J. Skitka (2009), ‘Gut Reactions: Moral Conviction, Religiosity, and Trust in Authority’, Psychological Science, 20 (9): 10591063.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Institutional Economics
  • ISSN: 1744-1374
  • EISSN: 1744-1382
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-institutional-economics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 28 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 256 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 28th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.