Research Paper PSE Working Papers 2005-43
Deliver us from evil: religion as insurance
01 Dec 2005
This paper focusses on the insurance role of religion in buffering the well-being impact of stressful life events, and the ensuing economic and social implications. Using two large-scale European data sets, we show that the religious enjoy higher levels of life satisfaction, and that religion does insure against some adverse life events. All denominations suffer less psychological harm from unemployment than do the non-religious; equally both Catholics and Protestants are less hurt by marital separation. However, while Protestants are protected against divorce, Catholics are punished for it. These results do not seem to come about 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, as implied by insurance, the religious have less variation in life satisfaction. Last, we suggest that religion's insurance role might be reflected in support for different economic and social systems: consistent with this, unemployment replacement rates across Europe are lower in more religious countries.