Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Effect of Religious Restrictions on Forced Migration

  • Melanie Kolbe (a1) and Peter S. Henne (a2)


What is the impact of religious repression on forced migration? While current and historical cases highlight the significance of state-sponsored religions repression, existing quantitative studies on forced migration have not sufficiently addressed the role of religion as a determinant of flight. We argue that religious repression undermines the quality of life, quality of religious observance, and physical integrity of religious communities, and therefore increases incentives to leave. We test this through a quantitative analysis of forced migration data from 1990 to 2008 and several measures of religious repression, using a negative binomial regression. We find that state-driven religious repression, in particular religious bans, tends to increase forced migration. These findings contribute to the body of forced migration literature and the study of religion and politics by demonstrating the significant effects religious repression has on this aspect of world politics.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Melanie Kolbe, Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia, Candler Hall, Athens, Georgia 30602. E-mail:
Peter S. Henne, Pew Research Center, 1615 L Street NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036. E-mail:


Hide All
Adhikari, Prakash. 2012. “The Plight of the Forgotten Ones: Civil War and Forced Migration.” International Studies Quarterly 56: 590606.
Adhikari, Prakash. 2013. “Conflict-Induced Displacement, Understanding the Causes of Flight.” American Journal of Political Science 57: 8289.
Aga Khan, Sadruddin. 1981. “Study on Human Rights and Massiv Exodus.” In Special Report to the Commission on Human Rights, 38th Session: United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Alesina, Alberto, Devleeschauwer, Arnaud, Easterly, William, Kurlat, Sergio, and Wacziarg, Romain. 2003. “Fractionalization.” Journal of Economic Growth 8: 155194.
Apodaca, Claire. 1998. “Human Rights Abuses: Precursor to Refugee Flight?Journal of Refugee Studies 11: 8093.
Banchoff, Thomas. 2008. Religious Pluralism, Globalization and World Politics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Bernard, William S. 1976. “Immigrants and Refugees: Their Similarities, Differences, and Needs.” International Migration 14: 267280.
Casanova, Jose. 1994. Public Religions in the Modern World. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Cheibub, José Antonio, Gandhi, Jennifer, and Vreeland, James Raymond. 2010. “Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited 2010.” (Accessed on July 30, 2014).
Davenport, Christian A. 2007. “State Repression and Political Order.” Annual Review of Political Science 10: 123.
Davenport, Christian A., Moore, Will H., and Poe, Steven C.. 2003. “Sometimes You Just Have to Leave: Domestic Threats and Forced Migration, 1964-1989.” International Interactions 29: 2755.
Driessen, Michael D. 2010. “Religion, State, and Democracy: Analyzing Two Dimensions of Church-State Arrangements.” Politics and Religion 3: 5580.
Edwards, Scott. 2009. The Chaos of Forced Migration: A Means of Modeling Complexity for Humanitarian Ends. Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag.
Fox, Jonathan. 2008. A World Survey of Religion and the State. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Fox, Jonathan. 2011. “Building Composite Measures of Religion and State.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 7: 139.
Gibney, Mark, Apodaca, Claire, and McCann, J.. 1996. “Refugee Flows, the Internally Displaced and Political Violence (1908–1993): An Explanatory Analysis” In Whither Refugee? The Refugee Crisis: Problems and Solutions, ed. Schmid, A. Leiden: Ploom, 4566.
Gibney, Mark, Cornett, Linda, and Wood, Reed W.. 2013. Political Terror Scale 1976–2008 (Accessed on July 30, 2014).
Gleditsch, Nils Petter, Wallensteen, Peter, Eriksson, Mikael, Sollenberg, Margareta, and Strand, Håvard. 2002. “Armed Conflict 1946–2001: A New Dataset.” Journal of Peace Research 39: 615637.
Goldstone, Jack A., Bates, Robert H., Epstein, David L., Robert Gurr, Ted, Lustik, Michael B., Marshall, Monty G., Ulfelder, Jay, and Woodward, Mark. 2010. “A Global Model for Forecasting Political Instability.” American Journal of Political Science 54: 190208.
Goździak, Elżbieta M., and Shandy, Dianna J.. 2002. “Editorial Introduction: Religion and Spirituality in Forced Migration.” Journal of Refugee Studies 15: 129135.
Grim, Brian J., and Finke, Roger. 2007. “Religious Persecution in Cross-National Context: Clashing Civilizations or Regulated Religious Economies.” American Sociological Review 72: 633658.
Grim, Brian J., and Finke, Roger. 2011. The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Hakovirta, Harto. 1986. Third World Conflicts and Refugeeism: Dimension, Dynamics and Trends of the World Refugee Problem. Helsinki: Finnish Society of Sciences.
Hassner, Ron E. 2003. “To Halve and to Hold: Conflict over Sacred Space and the Problem of Indivisibility.” Security Studies 12: 133.
Henne, Peter S. 2012. “The Ancient Fire: Religion and Suicide Terrorism.” Terrorism and Political Violence 24: 3860.
Henne, Peter S. 2013. “The Domestic Politics of International Religious Defamation.” Politics and Religion 6: 512537.
Horowitz, Michael C. 2009. “Long Time Going: Religion and the Duration of Crusading.” International Security 34: 162193.
Kunz, E. F. 1973. “The Refugee in Flight: Kinetic Models and Forms of Displacement.” International Migration Review 7: 125146.
MAR. 2009. Minorities at Risk Project. College Park, MD: Center for International Development and Conflict Management.
Marshall, Monty G., Robert Gurr, Ted, and Harff, Barbara. 2014. “Dataset and Coding Guidelines.” Center for Global Policy (Accessed on July 30, 2014).
Melander, Erik, and Öberg, Magnus. 2006. “Time to Go? Duration Dependence in Forced Migration.” International Interactions 32: 129152.
Melander, Erik, Öberg, Magnus, and Hall, Jonathan. 2009. “Are ‘New Wars’ More Atrocious? Battle Severity, Civilians Killed and Forced Migration before and after the End of the Cold War.” European Journal of International Relations 15: 505536.
Moghadam, Assaf. 2008/2009. “Motives for Martyrdom: Al-Qaida, Salafi Jihad, and the Spread of Suicide Attacks.” International Security 33: 4678.
Moore, Will H., and Shellman, Stephen M.. 2004. “Fear of Persecution: Forced Migration, 1952–1995.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 48: 723745.
Moore, Will H., and Shellman, Stephen M.. 2006. “Refugee or Internally Displaced Person?: To Where Should One Flee?Comparative Political Studies 39: 599622.
Moore, Will H., and Shellman, Stephen M.. 2007. “Whither Will They Go? A Global Study of Refugees' Destinations, 1965–1995.” International Studies Quarterly 51: 811834.
Neumayer, Eric. 2005. “Bogus Refugees? The Determinants of Asylum Migration to Western Europe.” International Studies Quarterly 49: 389409.
Nexon, Daniel H. 2009. The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe: Religious Conflict, Dynastic Empires and International Change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Pew Research Center. 2014. Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.
Philpott, Daniel. 2007. “Explaining the Political Ambivalence of Religion.” American Political Science Review 101: 505525.
PITF. 2014. Political Instability Task Force Problem Dataset. Arlington, VA: Center for Global Policy.
Rubin, Jacqueline H., and Moore, Will H.. 2007. “Risk Factors for Forced Migrant Flight.” Conflict Management and Peace Science 24: 85104.
Schmeidl, Susanne. 1997. “Exploring the Causes of Forced Migration: A Pooled Time-Series Analysis, 1971–1990.” Social Science Quarterly 78: 284308.
Smith, Christian. 1996. “Correcting a Curious Neglect, or Bringing Religion Back.” In Disruptive Religion: The Force of Faith in Social Movement Activism, edited by Smith, Christian. New York, NY: Routledge.
Smyser, W.R. 1987. Refugees: Extended Exile. New York, NY: Praeger.
Steele, Abbey. 2011. “Electing Displacement: Political Cleansing in Apartadó, Colombia.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 55: 423445.
Themnér, Lotta, and Wallensteen, Peter. 2013. “Armed Conflict, 1946–2012.” Journal of Peace Research 50: 509521.
Toft, Monica D. 2007. “Getting Religion? The Puzzling Case of Islam and Civil War.” International Security 31: 97131.
Toft, Monica D., Philpott, Daniel, and Shah, Timothy. 2011. God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.
UCDP. 2013. “Uppsala Conflict Data Program 2010.” (Accessed on July 30, 2014).
UNHCR. 2007. “Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons: Part I: Foundations of IDP Protection. Chapter 1: The Fundamentals of Protection.” (Accessed on July 30, 2014).
UNHCR. 2010. “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.” (Accessed on July 30, 2014).
UNHCR. 2012. UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database.” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (Accessed on July 30, 2014).
Vreeland, James R. 2008. “The Effect of Political Regime on Civil War: Unpacking Anocracy.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 52: 401425.
WB. 2013. “World Bank Open Data.” (Accessed on July 30, 2014).
Wood, Reed W., and Gibney, Mark. 2010. “The Political Terror Scale (PTS): A Re-Introduction and a Comparison to CIRI.” Human Rights Quarterly 32: 367400.
WVS. 2013. “World Values Survey Data.” (Accessed on July 30, 2014).
Zolberg, Aristide R., Suhrke, Astri, and Aguayo, Sergio. 1989. Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Devleoping World. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Kolbe and Henne Supplementary Material
Supplementary Appendix

 Unknown (1.2 MB)
1.2 MB

The Effect of Religious Restrictions on Forced Migration

  • Melanie Kolbe (a1) and Peter S. Henne (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed