The Politics of 130,000 American Religious Leaders: A New Methodological Approach
Gabrielle Malina & Eitan Hersh
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming
We compile an original database of 130,000 American clergy across 40 denominations, which we link to public voter registration data. We then link these data to mass surveys and a survey of pastors' own churches. This paper has two purposes. First, it introduces a new methodology for learning about religious communities by scraping information from denominational find-a-church websites . Second, the paper presents several short analyses that focus on the political affiliations of pastors and how they relate to congregants. We demonstrate that denominational affiliation is highly informative of a pastor's party registration but not a congregant's. Yet, the weak relationship for congregants masks a stronger underlying relationship between denominational affiliation and issue positions. We also demonstrate that many congregants, particularly in conservative churches, are politically unaligned with their pastor.
The Dogma Within? Examining Religious Bias in Private Title VII Claims
Matthew Dahl, Devan Patel & Matthew Hall
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, forthcoming
In recent years, American politicians have become increasingly concerned that judges who identify as Christian are making decisions based on that identity — that Christian judges harbor a certain “dogma” within them that shapes their decision making. In this article, we investigate whether this concern is warranted by examining how such judges handle claims that are brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits private discrimination in employment on the basis of religion. By focusing on decision making in cases of private discrimination — rather than public discrimination — we make progress on a theoretical conundrum that has dogged previous efforts to identify causal effects in religious accommodation cases. However, our tests produce little evidence to support the idea that Christian judges are more likely than their non-Christian colleagues to favor claimants, even in this alternative domain. Our findings therefore suggest that the current political focus on possible bias among Christian judges is empirically unfounded, at least in situations of religious accommodation.
When Houses of Worship Go Empty: The Effects of State Restrictions on Well-being Among Religious Adherents
Stanford Working Paper, November 2021
Using panel data on over 50,000 individuals between March 2020 and May 2021, this paper investigates the effects of state house of worship restrictions on subjective well-being (SWB). My identification strategy exploits plausibly exogenous variation in the timing of these policies on religious adherents with their non-religious counterparts before versus after the adoption of the state restrictions. The adoption of these restrictions led to a 0.095 standard deviation reduction in current life satisfaction and a 4.1 percentage point rise in self isolation among the religious, relative to their counterparts. Numeric caps are more harmful for SWB than percentage caps. The results are robust to a wide array of controls, including income, political affiliation, economic sentiment, industry, and occupation. Moreover, they are robust to state × time fixed effects, which exploit variation between religious and non-religious adherents after controlling for all shocks common in the same state over time.
Religious identity cues increase vaccination intentions and trust in medical experts among American Christians
James Chu, Sophia Pink & Robb Willer
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 7 December 2021
Containing the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States requires mobilizing a large majority of the mass public to vaccinate, but many Americans are hesitant or opposed to vaccination. A significant predictor of vaccine attitudes in the United States is religiosity, with more-religious individuals expressing more distrust in science and being less likely to get vaccinated. Here, we test whether explicit cues of common religious identity can help medical experts build trust and increase vaccination intentions. In a preregistered survey experiment conducted with a sample of unvaccinated American Christians (n = 1,765), we presented participants with a vaccine endorsement from a prominent medical expert (NIH Director Francis Collins) and a short essay about doctors’ and scientists’ endorsement of the vaccines. In the common religious identity condition, these materials also highlighted the religious identity of Collins and many medical experts. Unvaccinated Christians in the common identity condition expressed higher trust in medical experts, greater intentions to vaccinate, and greater intentions to promote vaccination to friends and family than those who did not see the common identity cue. These effects were moderated by religiosity, with the strongest effects observed among the most religious participants, and statistically mediated by heightened perceptions of shared values with the medical expert endorsing the vaccine. These findings demonstrate the efficacy of common identity cues for promoting vaccination in a vaccine-hesitant subpopulation. More generally, the results illustrate how trust in science can be built through the invocation of common group identities, even identities often assumed to be in tension with science.
Divided by Faith (in Christian America): Christian Nationalism, Race, and Divergent Perceptions of Racial Injustice
Samuel Perry et al.
Social Forces, forthcoming
Sociologists have long identified a “perception gap” between Black and White Americans regarding racial injustice, often emphasizing either “epistemologies of ignorance” or “religio-cultural” mechanisms. Integrating and extending these insights, we theorize that conceptions of America’s religio-cultural heritage and identity are racially coded and grounded in White supremacy, but only for those atop the racial hierarchy. From this, we predict the perception gap is largely driven by Whites’ racialized idealization of their own religio-cultural preeminence in American civic life — what we call “White Christian nationalism.” Drawing on nationally representative data with currently relevant measures of Americans’ perceptions of racial injustice, we show the more Whites affirm seemingly race-neutral statements promoting Christianity’s preeminence in American life, the more they affirm White victimhood and deny anti-Black injustice. This association seems to drive the perception gap. Specifically, for Whites, Christian nationalism is powerfully associated with refusing to acknowledge anti-Black discrimination while affirming supposed anti-White discrimination; lower likelihood of attributing Ahmaud Arbery’s murder to racism or to even know about the incident; and greater likelihood of denying racial inequality in policing. For Black Americans, however, affirming the same measures of Christian nationalism produces no consistent change in their recognition of racial injustice. Thus, for Whites, appeals to America’s “Christian” heritage are racially coded and contribute to an ideological defense of White supremacy, including the denial of blatant anti-Black injustice and a commitment to White victimhood.
Religion, social interactions, and COVID-19 incidence in Western Germany
Ioannis Laliotis & Dimitrios Minos
European Economic Review, forthcoming
This paper investigates how social interactions, as shaped by religious denomination, are related to COVID-19 incidence and associated mortality in Western Germany. We observe that the number of infections and deaths during the early pandemic phase were much higher in predominantly Catholic counties with arguably stronger family and social ties. The relationship was confirmed at the county level through numerous robustness checks, and after controlling for a series of characteristics and county fixed effects. At the individual level, we confirmed that Catholics, relative to non-Catholics, have tighter and more frequent interactions with their family and friends. Moreover, the intensity of social interaction was able to partially explain the relationship between COVID-19 incidence and share of Catholics at the county level. Our results highlight the number of dimensions that have to be taken into account when designing and implementing mitigation measures in the early stages of disease outbreaks.
The Protestant Road to Bureaucracy
Stanford Working Paper, November 2021
After the seventeenth century, rulers across Europe attempted administrative reforms to replace amateur administrators with professional bureaucrats. The success of administrative reforms hinged on whether rulers could compensate patrimonial officeholders and recruit human capital into the state administration. I show with historical microdata that the extent to which these administrative conditions were met at the time of reforms depended on whether states experienced a Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. A distinctive Protestant developmental path hastened the demise of the patrimonial state, and by 1789 the only major territorial states that were bureaucratic were Protestant.
Religious Protection from Populist Violence: The Catholic Church and the Philippine Drug War
Steven Brooke et al.
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming
Populists often demonize outgroups while undermining institutions that protect citizens against the abuse of state power. Under these conditions, how can vulnerable communities protect themselves? We argue that actors coupling a normative commitment to human rights with the local organizational capacity to intervene can systematically reduce victimization. Focusing on the Philippine Catholic Church in the country's ongoing “drug war,” we identify five potential mechanisms producing protection. Directly, these actors can raise attention, offer sanctuary, or disrupt enforcement, while indirectly they can shrink vulnerable populations and build local solidarity. We evaluate this argument with a mixed-method research design. A new dataset of over 2,000 drug war killings throughout Metro Manila shows that neighborhoods with a Catholic parish experience approximately 30% fewer killings than those without. Original interviews with clergy and laity in these parishes support both direct and indirect mechanisms, with strongest evidence for attention raising and building community solidarity.
Protestant Missionaries Are Associated With Reduced Community Cohesion
Sociology of Religion, forthcoming
Do Protestant missionaries affect community cohesion? This study puts forth two mechanisms that link missionaries to trusting, cooperative community life: pro-social preferences and social networks. On the one hand, Protestant missionaries espouse charity, and they establish regular venues of social interaction. On the other hand, Protestant missionaries propagate an individualist faith, and they provide an identity along which communities may separate. The effect of Protestant missionaries on community cohesion is thus unclear. To make headway on these conflicting theoretical predictions, we study variation in missionary activity in southeastern Peru. We document that villages with Protestant missions show lower levels of community cohesion compared to non-missionized, Catholic villages. We point to weakened networks as the most likely causal channel and show that effect sizes are particularly large among Pentecostal missionaries.
Preventing Islamic radicalization: Experimental evidence on anti-social behavior
Pedro Vicente & Inês Vilela
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming
Social tensions and violence induced by radicalized Muslims afflict many parts of the world. We collaborated with the main Islamic authority in Mozambique, which sponsored two randomized interventions to prevent violence related to youth radicalization: a religious campaign against extremist views of Islam, targeting change in beliefs; and a training module on entrepreneurship and employment, aiming to increase the opportunity cost of conflict. Our measurement focuses on anti-social behavior in a Joy-of-destruction lab game. We find that only the religious treatment decreased the propensity to destroy the payoffs of others. Consistently, surveys show increased trust in the state and decreased support for extremism. We conclude that religious sensitization is likely to be cost-effective in preventing Islamic radicalization and anti-social behavior.
Kinematic self-replication in reconfigurable organisms
Sam Kriegman et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 7 December 2021
All living systems perpetuate themselves via growth in or on the body, followed by splitting, budding, or birth. We find that synthetic multicellular assemblies can also replicate kinematically by moving and compressing dissociated cells in their environment into functional self-copies. This form of perpetuation, previously unseen in any organism, arises spontaneously over days rather than evolving over millennia. We also show how artificial intelligence methods can design assemblies that postpone loss of replicative ability and perform useful work as a side effect of replication. This suggests other unique and useful phenotypes can be rapidly reached from wild-type organisms without selection or genetic engineering, thereby broadening our understanding of the conditions under which replication arises, phenotypic plasticity, and how useful replicative machines may be realized.