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Faculty of Economics

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Iyer, S., Velu, C., Xue, J. and Chakravarty, T.

Divine Innovation: Religion and Service Provision by Religious Organizations in India


Abstract: This paper examines innovations to religious and non-religious service provision by religious organizations in India. We present a stylized Hotelling-style model in which two religious organizations position themselves at opposite locations to differentiate themselves on the religious spectrum in order to compete to attract adherents. Moreover, the model predicts that economic inequality can make both organizations increase their provision of non-religious services to retain adherents. In order to test our propositions, we present unique primary survey data on the economics of religion that we have collected from 2006-2008 on 568 Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Jain religious organizations spread across seven Indian states. We use these data to provide qualitative and descriptive statistics from the survey that is consistent and provides initial support for our propositions. We show that these organizations have substantially increased their provision of religious and non-religious services, but that there are significant variations by religion. We also provide quantitative evidence based on econometric testing to highlight that Indian religious organizations are maximizing the differences in their ideology with respect to other organizations, and are also providing higher education and health services as economic inequality increases in India.

Keywords: Economics of Religion, Service Provision, Hotelling Model, Inequality, India

JEL Codes: Z12

Author links: Sriya Iyer  


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