Jeanet Bentzen will be presenting her paper "God Politics: Religion, Attitudes, and Outcomes".
The faith-based initiatives are a series of reforms in the USA that are enhancing cooperation between church and state. We examine whether they have strengthened religion and associated attitudes and outcomes as a result. Exploiting the different uptake across US states in a difference-in-differences setup, we find that the initiatives increased church attendance and beliefs. The US rate of secularization would have been three times as rapid, had it not been for the faith-based initiatives. States did not differ in terms of changes in religiosity or other potentially important characteristics prior to the reforms. Next, we document that the initiatives increased skepticism towards homosexuality, working women, science, and crime and reinforced preferences for prayer in public schools and altruism. Last, we identify widened gender gaps and more bans on gay marriages as a result, but identify no impact on crime rates or charitable giving. If anything, the net effect on well-being is negative. The results point to politics as one explanation for the central role of religion in the USA and contribute to our understanding of how religion impacts outcomes.