DP12622 Religions, Fertility, and Growth in South-East Asia

Author(s): David de la Croix, Clara Delavallade
Publication Date: January 2018
Keyword(s): Buddhism, Catholicism, education, indirect inference, Islam, Quality-Quantity Tradeoff
JEL(s): J13, O11, Z13
Programme Areas: Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12622

We investigate the extent to which religions' pronatalism is detrimental to growth via the fertility/education channel. Using censuses from South-East Asia, we first estimate an empirical model of fertility and show that having a religious affiliation significantly raises fertility, especially for couples with intermediate to high education levels. We next use these estimates to identify the parameters of a structural model of fertility choice. On average, Catholicism is the most pro-child religion (increasing total spending on children), followed by Buddhism, while Islam has a strong pro-birth component (redirecting spending from quality to quantity). We show that pro-child religions depress growth in the early stages of growth by lowering savings, physical capital, and labor supply. These effects account for 10% to 30% of the actual growth gaps between countries over 1950-1980. At later stages of growth, pro-birth religions lower human capital accumulation, explaining between 10% to 20% of the growth gap between Muslim and Buddhist countries over 1980-2010.