Political leadership and the quality of public goods and services: Does religion matter?
Economics of Governance
Despite some indications to the contrary, religion still plays an important role in contemporary society. In this paper, the association between religion and the quality of public goods and services, measured by the so-called "delivery quality" index of the Worldwide Governance Indicators project, is empirically investigated. Besides religion, different political regimes may also have a crucial impact on the quality of public goods and services. In the paper, a distinction is made between
... made between theocratic, autocratic and democratic systems. It is hypothesized that the delivery quality is lower in theocratic and autocratic regimes than in democracies. In addition, religious diversity may enhance the quality of public goods and services in otherwise autocratic and democratic regimes. The level of religious goods and services provision should be lower in religiously diverse societies, because the costs of these goods are higher due to a lack of economies of scale. This may leave more potential for the provision of high-quality public goods and services by the state. These hypotheses are tested empirically with data from 190 countries. The empirical estimates confirm that both theocratic and autocratic regimes provide lower average delivery quality than democracies. Furthermore, a positive association of religious leadership with delivery quality is found in strict autocracies. Greater religious diversity is thus linked to a better quality of pubic goods and services in democracies, but not in autocracies.