Spiritual Capital Research Program

OPEN rfp grant award winners

Contact: Christopher Stawski
[email protected]


Philadelphia, PA (February 2006)… Ten grants of $150,000 each for high-level research in the emerging field of “Spiritual Capital” have been announced by Kimon H. Sargeant, the director of the Spiritual Capital Research Program based at the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science.

These grants from the Metanexus Institute are supported by generous funding from the John Templeton Foundation to help develop a new interdisciplinary field of “Spiritual Capital” research. Although religion and spirituality are rich sources of personal meaning, they also have profound public significance. The Spiritual Capital Research Program is designed to fund innovative research that could lead to new understandings of religion’s role in economic, social and political life.

“It is essential in today’s world that scholars take seriously the broader significance of spiritual capital,” says Sargeant. “Although the social sciences have often minimized the importance of religion, there is now a growing openness among scholars to consider how trust, behavioral norms and religion can profoundly shape economic, political and social developments.”

"The mutual interaction of religion and economics is an important, but neglected area for research and public policy," says William Grassie, executive director of the Metanexus Institute. "The newly funded studies will go a long way towards illuminating these dynamics and providing insights to the benefit of humanity."

Following a call for proposals, 43 finalists were chosen to submit full proposals from a pool of more than 560 applicants, representing many of the top research institutions in the United States and abroad.  The ten new Spiritual Capital grantees, representing disciplines such as economics, history, political science, and sociology, were selected from these finalists following a rigorous peer review process

The Principal Investigators awarded grants and their projects are:


Peter Berger, Boston University: Spiritual Capital in Developing Societies

Wendy Cadge, Bowdoin College: Comparing Spiritual and Other Forms of Social Capital: Lessons from the Immigrant Experience

Robert Dowd, University of Notre Dame: Religiosity and Political Culture: Christians, Muslims and Spiritual Capital in Sub-Saharan Africa

Daniel Hungerman, University of Notre Dame: Religious Capital and Public Policy in the 20th Century

Sriya Iyer, University of Cambridge: Innovation and the Resilience of Religion

Michael Kremer, Harvard University: The Impact of the Hajj

John Levi Martin, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Structures of Social and Spiritual Capital in Religious and Nonreligious Groups

Gary Richardson, University of California, Irvine: A Pious and Profitable Mystery: Guilds, Purgatory, Reformation, the Multiplication of Religious Denominations, and the Evolution of Industrial Society in Late-Medieval and Early Modern England

David Sikkink, University of Notre Dame: The Dynamics of Spiritual Capital in US Congregations

Fenggang Yang, Purdue University: Faith and Trust in the Emerging Market Economy in China


These funded projects were launched in January 2006 and are up to 24 months in duration.  As with the Spiritual Capital Research Program’s initial grants, awarded in 2005, the results of this new research will be disseminated through scholarly and lay publications, conferences, speaking engagements and websites.

In spring 2005, three scholars each received founding grants of $500,000 to lead teams of researchers in the first projects of the Spiritual Capital Research Program. The principal investigators heading these teams and their projects are:

Laurence Iannaccone, George Mason University: Creating an “Ecology” for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Spiritual Capital.

Timur Kuran, University of Southern California: The Role of Religion in the Economic Performance of Civilizations.           

Robert Woodberry, University of Texas at Austin: Project on Religion and Economic Change.

Each of these three projects began in March 2005 and is 30 months in duration.  All 13 grantees will meet annually in 2006 and 2007 to discuss their projects and begin building the network for this new field of study.


The Spiritual Capital Research Program is interested in supporting high-level, impartial scholarship on the contribution of religion – both for good and for ill – to economic and social developments.  The aim of the program is to catalyze the development of this interdisciplinary research field, which may become a vital new field in the social sciences.

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith raised key questions for the economic analysis of religion and looked at the effects of competition among religions and the dangers of government of religion. Just 100 years ago Max Weber published his provocative work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Since then, social scientists have vigorously debated the concept of social capital, but spiritual capital – a sub-set of the field – remains relatively understudied. Only in recent years have leading scholars, including Nobel laureate economists Gary Becker and Robert Fogel and political scientists John DiIulio and Robert Putnam, called renewed attention to the effects of spiritual and religious practices, beliefs and institutions on economics, politics and societies.

The Metanexus Institute advances scientific research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion.  Metanexus is a leader in a growing network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature, and culture in communities and on campuses throughout the world.  Metanexus sponsors dialogue groups, lectures, workshops, research, courses, grants, and publications.  Metanexus leads and facilitates over 300 projects in 36 countries.  Projects include the Local Societies Initiative, the Templeton Research Lectures, and topical interdisciplinary research projects such as the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program, Spiritual Capital Research Program, and the Templeton Advanced Research Program. as well as other endeavors.  A membership organization, Metanexus hosts an online magazine and discussion forum with over 180,000 monthly page views and 8000 regular subscribers in 57 different countries.

The mission of the John Templeton Foundation is to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise.

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