Jeanet Bentzen, University of Copenagen: "Origins of Religiousness: The Role of Natural Disasters"

"The Role of Natural Disasters"

Abstract

Across 800 regions of the World, this research shows that people are more religious
when living in regions that are more frequently razed by natural disasters. This is in
line with psychological theory stressing that religious people tend to cope with adverse
life events by seeking comfort in their religion or searching for a reason for the event; for
instance that the event was an act of God.

This is termed religious coping. Natural disasters are a source for adverse life events, and thus one way to interpret my findings is by way of religious coping. The results are robust to various measures of religiousness, and to inclusion of country-fi…xed effects, income, education, demographics, religious denominations, and other climatic and geographic features.

The results hold within Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, and across continents. To eliminate bias from omitted variables and selection (perhaps religious people are less likely to move out of disaster areas as they see the disaster as an act of God), I further show that second generation immigrants whose mothers descend from natural disaster areas, are more religious than their counterparts with ancestors from calmer areas. Why should economists care? Evidence suggests that religiousness in‡uences economic outcomes (e.g., McCleary & Barro (2003), Iannaccone (1998)).