Nav: Home

Secular countries can expect future economic growth, confirms new study

July 18, 2018

New research measuring the importance of religion in 109 countries spanning the entire 20th century has reignited an age-old debate around the link between secularisation and economic growth. The study, published in Science Advances, has shown that a decline in religion influences a country's future economic prosperity.

While it is well documented that rich countries tend to be secular whilst poor countries tend to be religious, it is still unclear if secularisation causes wealth or the other way around?

The subject has long been debated by classic scholars of social science including French sociologist Emile Durkheim, who claimed that religion fades away once economic development has satisfied our material needs, whereas German sociologist Max Weber, argued that changes in religion drive economic productivity. The debate continues to this day.

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol (UK) and Tennessee (US) used data from birth cohorts from the World Values Survey to get a measure of the importance of religion spanning the entire 20th century (1900 to 2000).

The findings revealed that secularisation precedes economic development and not the other way around. Although this does not demonstrate a causal pathway, it does rule out the reverse.

Furthermore, the findings show that secularisation only predicts future economic development when it is accompanied by a respect and tolerance for individual rights. Countries where abortion, divorce and homosexuality are tolerated have a greater chance of future economic prosperity.

Damian Ruck, the study's lead researcher in the University of Bristol Medical School (Population Health Sciences), said: "Our findings show that secularisation precedes economic development and not the other way around. However, we suspect the relationship is not directly causal. We noticed that secularisation only leads to economic development when it is accompanied by a greater respect for individual rights.

"Very often secularisation is indeed accompanied by a greater tolerance of homosexuality, abortion, divorce etc. But that isn't to say that religious countries can't become prosperous. Religious institutions need to find their own way of modernising and respecting the rights of individuals."

Alex Bentley from the University of Tennessee, added: "Over the course of the 20th century, changes in importance of religious practices appear to have predicted changes in GDP across the world. This doesn't necessarily mean that secularization caused economic development, since both changes could have been caused by some third factor with different time lags, but at least we can rule out economic growth as the cause of secularization in the past."
-end-
The study was funded by grants from the Wellcome Trust and the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council).

Paper:

'Religious change preceded economic change in the 20th century' by Damian Ruck, R. Alexander Bentley and Daniel J. Lawson in Science Advances

University of Bristol

Related Economic Growth Articles:

Economic growth is incompatible with biodiversity conservation
A study involving more than 20 specialists in conservation ecology and ecological economics highlights the contradiction between economic growth and biodiversity conservation.Adopting limits to international trade in resources or reducing and sharing the work, are some of the seven alternative proposals that the article notes to stop biodiversity loss.
The physics that drives periodic economic downturns
A professor at Duke University says that the way spilled milk spreads across the floor can explain why economic downturns regularly occur.
China's carbon emissions growth slows during new phase of economic development
Scientists from from the Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science, together with collaborators, recently revealed that China's annual carbon emissions growth declined significantly from 10% during the 2002-2012 period to 0.3% during the period from 2012-2017.
Study suggests economic growth benefits wildlife but growing human populations do not
Analysis shows that while national-level economic growth and social development -- including more women in government -- are associated with more abundant wildlife, growing human populations are linked to wildlife decline.
Renewable and nonrenewable energy in Myanmar's economic growth
An international group of scientists including a researcher from Ural Federal University developed a mathematical model that describes the influence of regenerative and non-regenerative energy sources on the economic growth of Myanmar.
Colonial policies can result in economic growth
A new study in the Review of Economic Studies suggests that areas where Dutch colonizers built sugar factories in the 19th century are more developed today.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology: Economic growth linked to reduction in stunting and thinness, but rise in overweight and obesity in Chinese children and adolescents
The first study to evaluate the effect of economic growth on malnutrition in all its forms has found that, while stunting and thinness have ameliorated in recent years, a four-fold increase in overweight and obesity among children and adolescents occurred in China between 1995 and 2014, with around one in five children and adolescents now either overweight or obese.
Study: Democracy fosters economic growth
A new study co-authored by an MIT economist shows that when it comes to growth, democracy significantly increases development.
How private households can stall economic growth
How quickly the economy recovers after an economic shock also depends on the behavior of private households.
CO2 emissions in Russia go up in line with economic growth up until a certain point
Environmental pollution in Russia increases along with economic growth, but only until it reaches a certain threshold, from where it starts to decrease, demonstrates a recent study published in the open-access Russian Journal of Economics by Prof.
More Economic Growth News and Economic Growth Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.