The role of religion in economic performance has become an increasingly popular topic among economists. Recent research suggests that stronger religious beliefs within a country are associated with higher rates of economic growth. To date, though, researchers have not adequately explored the institutional mechanisms through which religion might impact growth, in effect leaving a “black box” linking religion and economic growth. The research to be done in this initiative will shine new light into that black box to illuminate the mechanisms and institutions currently hidden inside.
The research initiative is composed of five parts. The first three directly explore the link between religious beliefs and some of the important practices and institutions known to promote economic growth and development. Part One focuses on how a country’s religious tradition and culture influence the rule of law and reduce corruption, both of which are known to improve economic growth. Part Two examines the complementarity of spiritual, human, and financial capital in fostering economic growth through new survey data. Part Three will explore the historical role of religion in focusing economic actors on cooperative equilibria that may have led to growth. Parts Four and Five explore how state intervention in religious markets affects the level of religious involvement, in modern times as well as ancient. The knowledge gained from these studies will provide insight into the best ways in which government can influence an economy via the religious market. These various projects are expected to generate new knowledge to be published in academic journals, books, and chapters in books.
In conjunction with George Mason University, Part Six of the initiative is the hosting of workshops on religion and economics led by scholars Rodney Stark and Laurence Iannaccone. These workshops will be designed to spread awareness among scholars, the news media, and the general public of the findings of these studies and others within the field of economics of religion.
This initiative will provide insight into how and why religion matters in generating economic growth and development and in contributing to higher standards of living.
It will explore these issues at a nexus of economics, finance, sociology, and history. By funding this project, the John Templeton Foundation has made possible several important and catalytic contributions to the new field of the economics of religion.