Religion and Gender Equality Worldwide: A Country-Level Analysis
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Does religion help or hinder gender equality worldwide? Are some major world religions more conducive to equality than others? This study answers these questions using country-level data assembled from multiple sources. Much of the research on religion and gender has focused on the relationship between individual religious belief and practice and gender attitudes. This study, alternatively, compares the macro effects of the proportion of religious adherents in a country on two indicators of material gender equality: the United Nations Gender Inequality Index and the Social Watch Gender Equity Index. Comparing the world’s four largest religious groups reveals that the largest distinction is not between any of the three largest faiths—Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism—but between the religious and the non-religious. The more non-religious people in a country, the more gender equal that country tends to be. This finding holds when accounting for human development and other country-level factors, as well as in instrumental variable analysis.
KeywordsGender equality Religion Non-religion Atheism Agnosticism Christianity Islam Hinduism
The author is grateful to Art Alderson, Brian Powell, and the anonymous reviewers for their feedback on this project.
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