Secularization and Economic Models of Religious Behavior

Steve Bruce*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The economics of religion often creeps into the corner of the sociologist of religion's vision. Although their minds are generally on higher things, religious organizations have financial concerns. Since the early 1990s, a number of U.S. scholars have tried to radically reshape our understanding of religion by applying economic principles to such core problems as the explanation of belief, conversion, membership, and commitment. Inspired by Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker's grand vision of an economics of everything, Rodney Stark, Roger Finke, and Laurence Iannaccone have produced a large body of work that seeks to explain both large-scale social patterns (such as why some societies are more religious than others) and micro-decision making (such as shifting between denominations) by considerations of market structure and cost-benefit calculations. The supply-side explanation of religious vitality was promoted as an alternative to the secularization approach. Stark's interest in it stemmed from his earlier commitment to a theory of religion that makes the demand for religion high and stable. This article discusses secularization and economic models of religious behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion
EditorsRachel M. McCleary
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940332
ISBN (Print)9780195390049
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Demand
  • Economic models
  • Economics
  • Laurence iannaccone
  • Religion
  • Religious behavior
  • Religious vitality
  • Rodney stark
  • Roger finke
  • Secularization


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