Religious participation, social conservatism, and human development

Ben Gaskins, Matt Golder, David A. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


What is the relationship between human development, religion, and social conservatism? We present a model in which individuals derive utility from both the secular and religious worlds. Our model is unusual in that it explains both an individual's religious participation and her preferences over social policy at different levels of development. Using data from the pooled World Values Survey, we find that religious participation declines with human development and an individual's ability to earn secular income. We also find that although social conservatism declines with development in absolute terms, religious individuals become more socially conservative relative to the population average. Paradoxically, our results suggest that human development may make it easier for religious individuals to overcome collective action problems and obtain disproportionate political influence, even as their numbers dwindle and society as a whole becomes less socially conservative. Our analysis has important implications for the debate about secularization theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1125-1141
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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