Religion, Babies, and the Limits of Economic Analysis

Data-visualization guru Hans Rosling recently gave a fascinating TED talk contemplating the relationship between religion and babymaking. (For some of my commentary on his previous instances of wizardry, see here and here.)

This week at Values & Capitalism, I offer my thoughts on the lecture, focusing specifically on the limits of Rosling’s analysis as it relates to the economic implications of religion and culture.

You can watch the full talk below:

Rosling argues that religion has nothing to do with decreasing birth rates, but getting out of poverty does.

Ah, but what hath religion to do with that?

As I’ve written previously, economists have a tendency to shy away from and/or mistreat any factors that might rattle their neat categorical frameworks and cause “#VALUE!” to pop up throughout their intricate Excel spreadsheets. Observing countries according to “majority religion,” for example, provides little insight into the unique cultural differences and political climates of the countries involved while also failing to take into account which portions of the population are outpacing others and whether that matters.

Hans Rosling, data visualization, babies, religion, TEDRosling admits to his analysis being high-level, and although it certainly provides value to the extent that it shows a few notable features on one side of the relationship, we needn’t dismiss the roles that religion and culture play based on these types of one-dimensional analysis. Uncovering the other side—the nuanced ways in which religious institutions and spiritual development impacts our socio-economic activity—will be much trickier than consulting a Wikipedia map and tracking surface-level developments in economic progression.

To read the full post, click here.

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  • Remnant Culture

    Religion, babies, and the limits of economic analysis. @TED_TALKS @HansRosling

  • Remnant Culture

    Economic prosperity impacts babymaking, but what hath religion to do with economic prosperity?

  • RJ Moeller

    Economic prosperity impacts babymaking, but what hath religion to do with economic prosperity?