Importance of religion after adversity

Paul Frijters, David W. Johnston, Rachel J. Knott, Benno Torgler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


After major adversity, some people rely on their religious faith and networks for comfort, support, and material goods and services. Consistent with this behavior are findings that adversity has a positive causal effect on the importance of religion in people's lives. Using a large high-frequency US dataset, we estimate the causal effects of natural disasters on stated religious importance and attendance at religious services. Effects are identified by comparing changes in outcomes over time within counties affected by a natural disaster with changes over time in other counties from the same state. We find that most estimates are near-zero in magnitude; for the full sample, for subgroups defined by religious affiliation, demographics, and income, and for different disaster types. However, significant negative effects are found immediately postdisaster, suggesting a short-term crowding-out effect in which recovery activities limit time for worship. This explanation is supported by a finding that people are less “well rested” in the first weeks postdisaster.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • adversity
  • natural disasters
  • religious attendance
  • religious importance
  • resilience

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