Human Development vs Religiosity

Jerry Coyne posted a talk at the Harvard Museum of Natural History where he showed data suggesting that dysfunctional societies tend to be more religious than others. I wondered if a different index of human well-being might give a similar insight or a different one. I found a site, Measure of America, offering a tremendous amount of data and touting a parameter called the human development index. This merges life expectancy, access to knowledge, and income. So it is not focused on measures of dysfunctionality, but on measures that one associates with well-being. I downloaded the data by state in the USA and correlated that with a recent Gallup poll on religiosity in America. This is the result:

The Human Development Index is negatively correlated with religiosity (r=-0.66897).

This is very consistent with Jerry Coyne’s proposal. This breaks down the analysis to a state-by-state basis for the USA, as opposed to the world-wide basis of comparison Jerry Coyne used. The pattern holds within the USA.

The data file I used is available here.HDI vs Religiosity

3 thoughts on “Human Development vs Religiosity

  1. Although it does seem as though the two are causally linked, which is the cause of the other? Does an increase in wealth cause a drop in religiosity or does a drop in religiosity cause an increase in wealth? The first case would be the argument of the religious (materialism drives a wedge between a person and God) and the latter the argument of the non-religious (religion serves as a yoke on society, choking development and education).

    • The data are only correlative, so it is very reasonable to pose the question. I think religion is not a powerful enough force in America to be responsible for the relative economic status of the various states. It rather seems to me that people in poor economic condition are more likely to turn to religion for comfort, perhaps partly because they are likely to be less well educated than wealthier people. It is possible of course that both mechanisms are at work, and that they reinforce each other.

  2. The American analytical study is predictive of Africa at the exxtreme. We are the most religious and at the same time most unenlightened on the part of human development. But religiousity can not be consciously doctored but the reverse, the more human capacity is built through education and modern mass media, the more enlightened the people will be and less dogmatism. Unfortunately African leaders consciously sponsored religiousity in various forms as a tool to keep their respective people intranationally enslaved and undeveloped

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