Forbidden Fruits: The Political Economy of Science, Religion, and Growth

Roland Benabou, Davide Ticchi, Andrea Vindigni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We study the co-evolution of religion, science, and politics. We first uncover, in international and U.S. data, a robust negative relationship between religiosity and patents per capita. The model then combines: (1) scientific discoveries that raise productivity but sometimes erode religious beliefs; (2) a government that allows innovations to diffuse, or blocks them; (3) religious institutions that can invest in doctrinal reform. Three long-term outcomes emerge. The "Western-European Secularization"regime has declining religiosity, unimpeded science, and high taxes and transfers. The "Theocratic"regime involves knowledge stagnation, unquestioned dogma, and high religious-public-goods spending. The "American"regime combines scientific progress and stable religiosity through doctrinal adaptations, with low taxes and some fiscal-legal advantages for religious activities. Rising income inequality can, however, empower a Religious-Right alliance that starts blocking belief-eroding ideas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1785-1832
Number of pages48
JournalReview of Economic Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Denialism
  • Discovery
  • Inequality
  • Innovation
  • Knowledge
  • Politics
  • Populism
  • Progress
  • Redistribution
  • Religion
  • Religious right
  • Science
  • Secularization
  • Theocracy
  • Tolerance


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