Unprecedented geographical mobility and resulting high levels of ethnic and religious heterogeneity across much of the world have been tied to a wide array of social and political issues. While the role of immigration and ethnic diversity have been given much attention, there is a relative dearth of research on how religious diversity might affect outgroup tolerance. Using both fixed and mixed effects models fitted to World Values Survey data and country-level social and economic indicators for 76 countries over a 15-year period (2005-2020), we examine cross-national patterns in the relationship between religious affiliation—specifically, majority versus minority religion status—and outgroup tolerance.
We demonstrate three important findings: relative to those who hold a majority religion identity, belonging to a minority religion is associated with generally higher outgroup tolerance across societies, national-level religious fractionalisation is positively associated with outgroup tolerance, and as religious fractionalisation increases, the minority-majority gap in tolerance decreases as majority members become increasingly more tolerant.
Robert Andersen is Professor of Business, Economics and Public Policy at the Ivey Business School, Western University. He is also cross-appointed in the Departments of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences, Political Science and Sociology. Previous appointments include Distinguished Professor of Social Science, University of Toronto; Senator William McMaster Chair in Political Sociology, McMaster University; and Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer, University of Oxford. Bob’s main research interests are in political economy, social stratification and social statistics. Much of his recent research explores the relationship between economic inequality—both at the individual and contextual levels—and attitudes and behaviours considered important for the health of democracy, including tolerance, social trust, support for democracy, attitudes towards redistribution, and civic participation. His published research includes Presenting Statistical Results Effectively (with Dave Armstrong, Sage, 2022), Modern Methods for Robust Regression (Sage, 2008), and more than 65 academic articles in academic journals, including the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Political Science, Annual Review of Sociology, and Sociological Methodology. He has also consulted for the European Union, the United Nations and the Canadian Government on issues related to inequality, politics and government.