Overview

The goal of the Project on Religion and Economic Change is to evaluate the effect of religion on social outcomes around the world at the national, community, and individual levels. The central question is one that dates back to sociologist Max Weber. Countless scholars have wrestled with whether religion influences economic development, democratization, rule of law, class structure, and other social outcomes, but have largely been frustrated by methodological or data challenges. One of the major obstacles has been a difficulty in finding credible, detailed historical information for cross-national comparisons. PREC is unique in its scope and design. Our data sets, based on missionary documents, permit an unprecedented look at the cumulative effect of religious influence on society over 190 years and in every non-Western country. Innovative use of geographic information systems (GIS) and census data allow scholars a more detailed picture of possible religious effects. The findings produced by PREC will illuminate this age-old question with the best of modern social science, technology, and a sense of global perspective. Perhaps more importantly, the vast amount of raw data collected through this project provides researchers with an unparalleled new resource help answer questions regarding the health, educational, legal, religious, and economic conditions of many nations across nearly two centuries. This effort has been made possible by generous funding from the John Templeton Foundation, the Metanexus Institute, the Louisville Institute, and the National University of Singapore.