Friday, April 14, 2006

Earthly rewards on the road to the kingdom of heaven, or hell :: FT

Chris Giles, of The Financial Times, does a nice job of reviewing what economists who study religion are up to. It's a wide variety of things.

Two quotes of particular interest to the general Emirates Economist reader in search of "economic analysis of events in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf":
It is very hard to discern a link between religion and a country's economic performance, once the starting position of an economy, education levels and other important factors have been taken into account. "Backwardness" among Muslim nations, in particular, is a myth. Marcus Noland, a senior fellow of the Institute for International Economics, found that if you looked at the proportion of a population that was Muslim, either across countries or within countries with large regionally concentrated Muslim populations, it was almost impossible to find a statistically significant negative effect of Islam on economic growth. "If anything, Islam promotes growth," Mr Noland concluded.
...
Robert Barro and Rachel McCleary of Harvard University found, not surprisingly, that countries with high church attendance had high levels of belief in God and hell.

But where two countries had similar levels of church attendance, economic performance was superior in the one where belief in hell was stronger. In the same vein, countries with high church attendance had a worse economic performance than less observant countries with similar levels of belief in God or hell.

Belief matters more than belonging, they concluded. The threat of hell stops people cheating and increases trust, a valuable public good. But actually attending church wastes time ...
Emphasis added. "Church" in the above quote is generic for place of worship irrespective of the religion. Thanks to grapeshisha for emailing me the link.

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