Here’s an interesting story from the New York Times: Research Around the World Links Religion to Economic Development.
Since the German sociologist Max Weber wrote about the Protestant work ethic and the spirit of capitalism, social scientists have argued that culture including religious habits is part of the complex mix that determines a country’s economic health. What distinguishes the work of Mr. Barro and Ms. McCleary, some scholars said, is that it uses a sophisticated analysis of a huge set of data to quantify the arguments of anthropologists, sociologists and political scientists.
As the couple began their study, Ms. McCleary said, it was clear that the widely discussed secularization thesis the idea that a country becomes more secular as it becomes richer and more industrialized did not apply to the United States, one of the most religious nations in the world.
And over the last 30 years, many East Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, have experienced both rapid economic growth and the spread of Christianity, Mr. Barro said.
“South Korea is a good example of that rapid growth and more religion,” he said. There the number of converts from Confucianism and other Eastern religions to Christianity is growing rapidly, he explained.
Some of the lowest levels of religiosity were found in China and North Korea. The lowest levels of economic growth were in sub-Saharan African countries. The former East Germany (which includes Weber’s birthplace) was one of the lowest in both religiosity and growth.