Let us pray: religious interactions in life satisfaction

Andrew E. Clark* (Paris School of Economics and IZA)
Orsolya Lelkes (European Centre, Vienna)
January 2009


We use recent pooled survey data on 90 000 individuals in 26 European countries to examine religious spillover effects on life satisfaction. Own religious behaviour is positively correlated with individual life satisfaction. More unusually, average religiosity in the region also has a positive impact: people are more satisfied in more religious regions. This spillover holds both for those who are religious and for those who are not. The flipside of the coin is that a greater proportion of “atheists” (those who say they do not currently belong to any religious denomination) has negative spillover effects, for the religious and atheists alike. We last show that both Protestants and Catholics like to live in regions where their own religion is dominant, while Protestants are also more satisfied when Catholics dominate. The generic positive spillover effect of others’ religion is not explained by social capital, crime, or trust.

Andrew E. CLARK
Orsolya LELKES
14 July 2010