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Type Journal Article - University of Southern California (Preliminary draft)
Title Religion, social interactions, and cooperative attitudes: Evidence from Indonesia
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2012
URL http://i.pacdev.ucdavis.edu/files/conference-schedule/session/papers/Religion_social_interactions_an​d_cooperative_attitudes.pdf
Using the latest round of the Indonesian Family Life Survey (IFLS), I investigate how religions correlate with norms of inter- and intragroup cooperation such as helpfulness, trust, and tolerance. I consider two sources of variation related to religion that may influence cooperative norms, namely individual religiosity and social interactions within the community. I investigate these associations for different religions in Indonesia, a country where Islam is the majority religion but recognizes other world religions such as Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, as well as Confucianism. Meanwhile, the attitudes studied here naturally fall under what Guiso et al. (2011) called “civic capital”, i.e., “those persistent and shared beliefs and values that help a group overcome the free rider problem in the pursuit of socially valuable activities”. I find that: (i) religiosity is associated with a higher willingness to help and trust of individuals within one’s own community, but not with the (generalized) trust of strangers; (ii) however, religiosity is associated with more religious discrimination; (iii) interestingly, but consistent with the social psychology literature, religiosity is also associated with greater ethnic discrimination; and (iv) mainly among Muslims, religiosity is negatively associated with tolerance. The evidence, therefore, supports the notion that religion may be linked to “parochial altruism” (Bernhard et al., 2006; Choi and Bowles, 2007), which is altruism towards members of one’s own group combined with hostility towards members of the out-groups. In Indonesia, this link is strongest for Muslims. Meanwhile, I look at social interactions by examining how religious diversity and segregation in the community are associated with cooperative attitudes. Similar to Alesina and La Ferrara (2002), I find that individuals are more trusting in more homogeneous communities. They also tend to trust their neighbors more in subdistricts where the villages are more religiously segregated. On the other hand, religious diversity is associated with more tolerance, while religious segregation is associated with less tolerance. These findings support the idea that network effects may sustain discriminative attitudes. At the same time, they also support the optimal contact hypothesis of Allport (1954) which posits that, under the right circumstances, frequent interactions with those who are dissimilar may reduce prejudice.

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