Qual Quant (2013) 47:1163–1171
A Bayesian model of religious conversion
Published online: 5 October 2011
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011
Abstract The Economics of Religion literature is of two minds on whether conversion is
more likely to occur between close or distant religions. The religious capital model suggests
that conversion should involve sufﬁciently close religions whereas cognitive considerations
suggest that conversion should involve sufﬁciently distant religions. We reconcile these seem-
ingly contradictory insights about conversion for the class of non-instrumental, intrinsically
motivated conversions within a Bayesian framework. We show that religious conversion
should involve moderately distant religions.
Keywords Cognitive constraints · Conversion · Decision · Economics of Religion ·
JEL Classiﬁcation C44 · D80 · Z12
Over the last few decades economists have gradually acquired interest in religion. The is-
sue of religious conversion has received some attention in the growing body of literature
known as the Economics of Religion, mostly in connection with the role of habit in reli-
gious sphere, inter-generational transmission of religious afﬁliation, and the impact of inter-
religious marriage on religious afﬁliation (Kumar 2008).
Of all the models that deal with conversion the religious capital model is the best-known.
Religious capital consists of “familiarity with a religion’s doctrines, rituals, traditions, and
members” (Iannaccone 1990, p. 299). With regard to denominational mobility this model
The author is Assistant Professor at Azim Premji University, Bangalore.
V. K u m ar (
Azim Premji University, Hosur Road, Bangalore 560100, India
e-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org