Using BI and data visualization to explore the relationship between faith and GDP per capita

Do religious beliefs adversely affect a country’s economic performance?

It may seem like a strange question to pose, but when using Business Intelligence (BI) and data visualization to assess these two seemingly unrelated metrics, a distinct pattern appears to emerge.

Higher rates of religion = lower per capita GDP?

For example, 98 percent of Pakistan’s population identify as being ‘of faith’, with its populace enduring a miserly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of US$3,144. Similarly, 91 percent of Nigerians classify themselves as religious, with a per capita GDP of just US$2,827. In fact, El Salvador is the only country, in which over 90 percent of its population claim to be religious (91%), that has a per capita GDP of more than US$7,000 ($7,505).

Lower rates of religion = higher per capita GDP?

Conversely, the USA is the only nation on earth that boasts a GDP per capita of more than US$34,000, whilst simultaneously claiming a religious population that’s greater than 42 percent of its total population. Interestingly, the US is the notable outlier of this dataset, brandishing the globe’s highest GDP per capita ($52,839) by a whopping US$9,693 (Canada has the second highest per capita GDP, at $43,146). To emphasize this point, South Korea is the only other nation, with a religious population above 50 percent of its total (54%), that also has a per capita GDP above the modest US$18,000 threshold ($33,156).

The other ‘exception that proves the rule’, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is China. In fact, it has the smallest percentage of religious residents of any country plotted on the above charts (14%), but only has a per capita GDP of US$9,828 – despite its continued emergence as the world’s next super economy.

A direct cause-and-effect relationship?

So what ‘truth’ does this relationship represent? Whatever the case, it seems unlikely that these two metrics have a direct cause-and-effect relationship. It’s hardly logical to implicate that people of religious faith have inherently diminished earning capacity. Is it?

Could it be true that those without a strong sense of faith dedicate more time and energy into pursuing economic, rather than religious, prosperity?

Or perhaps it’s more likely that, in times of economic hardship, people seek solace and strength through religion?

Your thoughts?

So what are your thoughts on this controversial correlation? We’d love to hear from you. You can send your opinions into

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