Religion, Health, and Behavior: Evidence from Nigeria


Religion has influenced human lives for centuries. But despite its undeniable importance, we still lack systematic evidence on the implications of people’s real-life interactions with religious institutions. How does joining a church affect individuals’ lives? What are the specific impacts of different religious motifs? And what motivates individuals to join a church in the first place? Through a unique partnership with one of the largest Nigerian Pentecostal denominations we will address these questions and provide causal evidence on the impacts of religious engagement using the context of African Pentecostalism, one of the most remarkable phenomena of religious dynamism. We will examine four distinct aspects of people’s interactions with Pentecostal churches. First, the salience of different religious motifs in the denomination’s proselytization activities allow us to identify the motivations underlying people’s decision to join a Pentecostal church. Second, the denomination’s proselytization activities rely on randomly approaching pedestrians at public locations. This creates a quasi-experimental research design allowing us to apply an instrumental variable strategy, instrumenting the decision to join the Pentecostal denomination with contact from the LFW proselytization team. Third, we will disentangle the effect of joining a Pentecostal denomination into different channels using a pre-registered randomized controlled trial (RCT). We will use the denomination’s practice to integrate new church members into the community by offering study groups. Fourth, we will develop an extension of the club good model to account for the observed empirical patterns of religious dynamics in urban Nigeria.