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Economics | Religion | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Louis Johnston, Economics


Economic growth is the fundamental measurement that assesses a country’s productive capacity in terms of goods and services. It is conventionally estimated using the percent rate of increase in GDP per capita and is correlated with numerous factors in society, among which include quality of life. For example, one application of GDP per capita is as a primary indicator of standard of living. However, although GDP per capita is a reliable determinant of the level of development in a country, it is certainly not the only way to measure well-being. For instance, it fails to capture many important aspects of human welfare including health, education, and culture.

Religion is a prominent dimension of culture that can be a significant factor in one’s quality of life. However, it is often overlooked as a potential determinant of economic growth. Economists have been trying to fill this gap. In the early 1970’s, Simon Kuznets, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1971, wrote an article highlighting his findings and reflections of modern economic growth. Of the six characteristics of modern economic growth that he recognized, secularization was cited as a means of changing ideology in society over time and thus as an indirect cause of economic growth (Kuznets 1973). In this case, secularization is a separation of a society from religious or spiritual values or influence. A result is the restriction of the role of religion in modern societies.

This project comprises an exploration of the relationship between monthly attendance at church services and economic growth across several countries. The goal of my research project is to partially replicate the findings of two leading authors in this field, Robert J. Barro and Rachel M. McCleary (2003). I will also extend their work to cover the time period from 1999-2012, as they examined data from 1981 to 1999.