February 2012

IZA DP No. 6384: Is Religiosity of Immigrants a Bridge or a Buffer in the Process of Integration? A Comparative Study of Europe and the United States

revised version published as 'Bridges or Buffers? Motives behind Immigrants' Religiosity' in: IZA Journal of Migration, 2013, 2:23. A different revised version published as 'Immigration-Religiosity Intersections at the Two Sides of the Atlantic: Europe and the United States' in: Constant A. and Zimmermann K. (eds.), International Handbook on the Economics of Migration, 2013, Eward Elgar Publishing

This study reviews and evaluates the intertwined relationship between immigration and religiosity, focusing on the two sides of the Atlantic – Europe and the United States. Based on the existing literature and on a statistical analysis of several data sets (the International Social Survey Program – ISSP: Module Religion, 2008; the European Social Survey – ESS, waves 2002-2010; and the General Social Survey – GSS, waves 2002-2010) the following aspects are explored: (i) the current religious landscape of Europe and of the United States and projections for the future; (ii) religiosity of immigrants (in Europe and the United States): are they more religious than the native populations (in terms of church attendance and of prayer habits)?; (iii) how does religiosity of immigrants affect integration: is it serving as a bridge that smoothens integration into the local population, or as a buffer against the harsh integration process?; and (iv) are the intersections between religiosity and integration different in Europe and in the United States, due to historical differences in the state-religion relationship, immigration policies and concepts? The main findings are the following: (a) immigrants are indeed more religious than the populations in the receiving countries. This fact, combined with higher fertility rates and also a continued inflow of immigrants, will lead to major changes in the religious landscape, both in Europe and in the United States; and (b) while in the united States religiosity of immigrants serves as a bridge between the immigrants and the local population, in Europe it has mainly the function of a buffer and of "balm to the soul".