Hard Times on Main Street, High Times on Church Street: Religious Activity and the State of the Economy
Sammanfattning: This paper examines the relationship between the business cycle and religious activity. Using Swedish and Norwegian data on Protestant denomination membership, and data on religious service attendance in the Church of Sweden, we test if religious activity is positively affected by an economic crisis or recession. We find that growth in religious service attendance in Swedish municipalities is systematically and negatively related to municipal per capita income growth. We also find indicative evidence that GDP per capita growth is related to service attendance growth rates. These results support the view that people increase their religious activity during a recession. Certain results on denomination membership growth support this view as well. However, further research is needed to draw more definite conclusion about the relationship between denomination membership growth and the business cycle. We argue that the results regarding service attendance rate growth are likely driven by psychological factors, since religious organizations provide the emotional comfort and community people may need in a crisis. This is supported by a vast number of studies in psychology, which show that the religious are less severely affected by stressful life events.
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