Spiritual Capital Research Program

october 2003 planning meeting

Research Questions
Meeting Agenda
Meeting Participants



“...It is my belief that no greater good has ever befallen you in this city than my service to my God; for I spend all my time going about trying to persuade you, young and old, to make your first and chief concern not for your bodies or for your possessions, but the highest welfare of your souls, proclaiming as I go, ‘Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the state.”
—Plato, The Apology

This meeting, supported by the John Templeton Foundation, explored how best to engage leading economists and other social scientists in the sustained study of spiritual capital. The Templeton Foundation’s long-term aim is not only to support empirically rigorous research but also to seed a new field with growing philanthropic research support.

This meeting was designed to bring greater definitional clarity on what constitutes spiritual capital, to help form a network of interested scholars and to identify concrete steps to advance research on spiritual capital, especially among economists.

The format emphasized the frank exchange of ideas rather than formal paper presentations. To foster discussion, short “think pieces” were commissioned from meeting participants.The papers identified promising areas for spiritual capital research in different fields. We have made several of these papers available, including the beginnings of a literature review. The meeting also addressed strategic questions of how to build a spiritual capital field, such as conferences, publications (edited journal), fellowships, and other components of a major research initiative.

Research Questions

Some research questions that this initiative might address include:

  • What is spiritual capital? What is a spiritual entrepreneur?

  • What steps will generate research in spiritual capital, steps involving a deep, dynamic and necessarily difficult (debate welcoming) interdisciplinary effort linking together research in economics, sociology and other social sciences?

  • How best can issues of central interest to economists (economic efficiency, entrepreneurism, economic growth) be illuminated by developing a nuanced and rigorous basis for understanding the relationships between religion and aspects of economic performance?

  • What issues will be most productive for building the long-term health and vigor of a research arena focused on spiritual capital? Some topics might include: spirituality and health, development, expanding the radius of trust, impact of corruption on development, the role of religious markets, and more.

  • What characteristic strengths and weaknesses are brought to the table by forms of formal economic analysis applied to various aspects of religion?

  • How can the reductive ‘tyranny of compression’ in economic modeling be suppressed in order to build an open, engagement-with-reality research? The new research must embrace religions’ complex forms, influences and contexts, while connecting with research questions usually raised within the field of economics.



Thursday, October 9, 2003

6:00 p.m. Reception
7:00 p.m. Dinner
Speakers: Gary Becker, University of Chicago; Lawrence Harrison, Tufts University

Friday, October 10, 2003

8:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast
8:30 a.m. The Templeton Foundation's vision for spiritual capital research
Charles L. Harper, Jr., Executive Director, John Templeton Foundation
9:00 a.m. Religion and Economic Growth: The Macro Perspective
What role does spiritual capital play in economic growth?
What is its significance for economic development?
10:30 a.m. Break
10:45 a.m. Institutions and Spiritual Capital
How might spiritual capital research contribute to the new institutionalism in economics and other social sciences?
How can spiritual capital research build on the social capital literature?
12:00 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. Economic Significance of Religious Beliefs: The Micro Perspective
How does religiously motivated behavior fit with or challenge current models of social action?
What can be gleaned from developments in behavioral economics and other research areas with respect to spiritual capital?
3:30 p.m. Break
3:45 p.m. Implications of Spiritual Capital Research
What might the implications of spiritual capital research be to international organizations such as IMF, the World Bank and others?
If spiritual capital can be contribute to economic growth and social stability, what are the implications for the policy roles of scholars?
5:00 p.m. Cocktail reception


Meeting Participants

ROBERT BARRO, Harvard University

GARY BECKER, University of Chicago

MARK CHAVES, University of Arizona

BARRY CHISWICK, University of Illinois at Chicago

ROGER FINKE, Penn State University

EDWARD GLAESER, Harvard University

PAUL GLEWWE, University of Minnesota

JONATHAN GRUBER, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


ROBERT HEFNER, Boston University

LAWRENCE IANNACCONE, George Mason University

GLENN LOURY, Boston University

LINDA DATCHER LOURY, University of Michigan

THEODORE MALLOCH, The Roosevelt Group

DEIRDRE MCCLOSKEY, University of Illinois at Chicago

ROBERT NELSON, University of Maryland

ROBERT PUTNAM, Harvard University

THOMAS SANDER, Harvard University


ROBERT WOODBERRY, University of Texas at Austin

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