Religiosity: good for society, bad for innovation?

In a new working paper Roland Benabou, Davide Tikkias well as Andrea Vindigni follow up their earlier article who found “a strong negative association between religiosity and per capita patents”. Their new article “Religion and Innovation” (annotation; PDF), they examine religiosity at the individual level, “exploring the relationship between religiosity and a wide range of pro- or anti-innovation attitudes”.

What do they find?

In fifty-two rating characteristics, greater religiosity is almost always and very significantly associated with less favorable attitudes towards innovation.

They are careful to note the broad benefits of religiosity in the social fabric:

Gizo, Sapienza as well as Zingales (2003), using World Values ​​Survey (WVS), found that religious people are more trusting—of other people, government institutions, and market outcomes—and also more trustworthy: less likely to break the law, accept bribes, cheat taxes and the like. Similarly, theoretical models highlight how a belief in divine rewards and punishments (or a Calvinist desire to signal one’s predetermined destiny) can cause people to behave less opportunistically and more cooperatively, which in turn can make such beliefs self-sustaining in any given situation. moment of time. social level.

Thus, religiosity appears to be related to the fact that Guiso et al. described as certain “relationships of society … conducive to increased productivity and growth.”


On the other hand, the main driver of long-term growth is technological progress and, more generally, the whole range of innovations: from the achievements of basic science to the spread of new technologies (for example, mokyr (2004)), economic practices, and even social change such as women’s involvement in production and ideation. Therefore, it is equally important to examine the extent to which religious beliefs, values ​​and institutions can promote or hinder creativity and innovation. This means, in a sense, revisiting, with the help of modern methodologies, the age-old theme of religion’s often tense relationship with science, freethinking, and revolutionary new ideas.

So they come back to this topic and come to this conclusion:

Using all five waves of the World Values ​​Survey, we examined the relationship between student measures of openness to innovation in a broad sense (e.g., attitudes towards science and technology, new and old ideas, shared change, personal risk taking and agency, imagination, etc.). ). and independence in children) and five measures of religiosity, including both beliefs and attendance. In fifty-two regression specifications (controlling for socio-demographic data, country, and year), greater religiosity was almost always and very significantly associated with less favorable attitudes towards innovation. In subsequent work, we plan to study the differences in these views between confessions.


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