Matthias Basedau / Simone Gobien / Sebastian Prediger

The Ambivalent Role of Religion for Sustainable Development: A Review of the Empirical Evidence

GIGA Working Paper, No. 297, February 2017

Abstract
Until recently, academia has largely neglected the impact of religion on sustainable development. However, empirical studies have shown that religion remains important in many societies and that its importance has been increasing since the beginning of the new millennium. This paper reviews the empirical quantitative literature on the effect of religion on development from the last decade. We start by disaggregating the concepts of religion and sustainable development into four religious and three developmental dimensions and proposing a framework to identify causal mechanisms. Numerous mechanisms are possible, and this complexity explains why only a few uncontested findings exist. Religion is ambivalent vis‐à‐vis development: although religious dimensions exert a positive influence on physical and mental health as well as on general well‐being, scholars have found a negative relationship between religious dimensions and both income and gender equality. Studies agree that the dominance of one religious group together with parallel ethnic and religious cleavages increases the risk of conflict, while studies on the pro‐peace effects of religious factors are largely missing. Methodological challenges relate to the availability of fine‐grained data, especially for non‐Western countries, and the use of concepts and definitions. Most importantly, the study of religion and development requires methods that allow for causal inference.

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GIGA Authors

Prof. Dr. Matthias Basedau

Director of the GIGA Institute of African Affairs
Editor GIGA Focus Africa

Prof. Dr. Matthias Basedau is director of the GIGA Institute of African Affairs and professor of political science at the University of Hamburg. His research focuses on political institutions and armed conflicts, as well as how both are linked to ethnicity, religion, and natural resources. He is also the regional coordinator for Central and West Africa within the framework of the Bertelsmann Transformation Index.

Dr. Simone Gobien is an Associate at the GIGA Institute of African Affairs.

Dr. Sebastian Prediger is an economist and research fellow at the GIGA Institute of African Affairs. He is also a visiting lecturer at Friedrich‐Alexander University Erlangen‐Nuremberg.

Recent Publications by the Authors

Matthias Basedau

Party Systems in Africa

in: Nic Cheeseman (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming

Lisa Hoffmann / Matthias Basedau / Simone Gobien / Sebastian Prediger

Universal love or one true religion? Experimental evidence of the ambivalent effect of religious ideas on altruism and discrimination

American Journal of Political Science, online first, 2019

Håvard Hegre / Marie Allansson / Matthias Basedau / Michael Colaresi / Mihai Croicu / Hanne Fjelde / Frederick Hoyles / Lisa Hultman / Stina Högbladh / Remco Jansen / Naima Mouhleb / Sayyed Auwn Muhammad / Desirée Nilsson / Håvard Mokleiv Nygård / Gudlaug Olafsdottir / Kristina Petrova / David Randahl / Espen Geelmuyden Rød / Gerald Schneider / Nina von Uexkull / Jonas Vestby

ViEWS: A political violence early-warning system

Journal of Peace Research, 56, 2019, 2, 155-174

Matthias Basedau

Progress Overlooked: The Case for More "Afropositivism"

GIGA Focus Africa, 02/2019

Matthias Basedau / Johanna Schaefer-Kehnert

Religious discrimination and religious armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa: an obvious relationship?

Religion, State and Society, 47, 2019, 1, 30-47