Deliver Us from Evil: Religion as Insurance

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 15.11.2005, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

Andrew E. Clark (Paris School of Economics)


This paper focusses on the impact of religiosity in buffering the effect of stressful life events on individual well-being, and the implications for economic and social policy. Using two large-scale European data sets, we first show that the religious, by whatever measure, report higher levels of life satisfaction. Second, religion does influence the impact of major life events. All denominations suffer less psychological harm from unemployment than do the non-religious. However, while Protestants are protected against divorce, Catholics are punished for it. These results do not seem to result from the endogeneity of religion. These patterns in subjective well-being correspond to data on both attitudes (the religious are both anti-divorce and anti-job creation for the unemployed) and behaviour (the religious unemployed are less likely to be actively looking for work). In panel data, the religious have less variation in life satisfaction, consistent with an insurance role for religion. Last, we suggest that religion's insurance role might be reflected in support for different economic and social systems: consistent with this, across Europe, replacement rates for the unemployed are lower in more religious countries.

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