God insures those who pay? Formal insurance and religious offerings in Ghana

Emmanuelle Auriol, Julie Lassébie, Amma Panin, Eva Raiber, and Paul Seabright


This paper provides experimental support for the hypothesis that insurance can be a motive for religious donations. We randomize enrollment of members of a Pentecostal church in Ghana into a commercial funeral insurance policy. Then church members allocate money between themselves and a set of religious goods in a series of dictator games with significant stakes. Members enrolled in insurance give significantly less money to their own church compared to members that only receive information about the insurance. Enrollment also reduces giving towards other spiritual goods. We set up a model exploring different channels of religiously based insurance. The implications of the model and the results from the dictator games suggest that adherents perceive the church as a source of insurance and that this insurance is derived from beliefs in an interventionist God. Survey results suggest that material insurance from the church community is also important and we hypothesize that these two insurance channels exist in parallel.


economics of religion; informal insurance; charitable giving;

JEL codes

  • D14: Household Saving; Personal Finance
  • G22: Insurance • Insurance Companies • Actuarial Studies
  • O12: Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
  • O17: Formal and Informal Sectors • Shadow Economy • Institutional Arrangements
  • Z12: Religion


See also

Published in

The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 135, n. 4, November 2020, pp. 1799–1848