Discussion paper

DP14824 In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic

In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for comfort and explanation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Using daily data on Google searches for 95 countries, this research demonstrates that the COVID-19 crisis has increased Google searches for prayer (relative to all Google searches) to the highest level ever recorded. More than half of the world population had prayed to end the coronavirus. The rise amounts to 50% of the previous level of prayer searches or a quarter of the fall in Google searches for flights, which dropped dramatically due to the closure of most international air transport. Prayer searches rose at all levels of income, inequality, and insecurity, but not for the 10% least religious countries. The increase is not merely a substitute for services in the physical churches that closed down to limit the spread of the virus. Instead, the rise is due to an intensified demand for religion: We pray to cope with adversity.


Bentzen, J (2020), ‘DP14824 In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14824. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14824