DP14167 Betting on the Lord: Lotteries and Religiosity in Haiti

Author(s): Emmanuelle Auriol, Delissaint Diego, Maleke Fourati, Josepa Miquel-Florensa, Paul Seabright
Publication Date: December 2019
Keyword(s): field experiment, religion, risk preferences
JEL(s): C93, D81, Z12
Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14167

We conducted an experimental study in Haiti testing for the relationship between religious belief and individual risk taking behavior. 774 subjects played lotteries in a standard neutral protocol and subsequently with reduced endowments but in the presence of religious images of Catholic, Protestant and Voodoo tradition. Subjects chose between paying to play a lottery with an image of their choice, and saving their money to play with no image. Those who chose the former are defined as image buyers and those who chose the latter as non-buyers. Image buyers, who tend to be less educated, more rural, and to exhibit greater religiosity, bet more than non-buyers in all games. In addition, in the presence of religious images all participants took more risk, and buyers took more risk when playing in the presence of their chosen images than when playing with other images. We develop a theoretical model calibrated with our experimental data to explore the channels through which religious images might affect risk-taking. Our results suggest that the presence of images tends to increase individuals' subjective probability of winning the lottery, and that subjects therefore believe in a god who intervenes actively in the world in response to their requests.