Religiosity and Educational Attainment Among the Roma: Shedding an Oppositional Identity?

On 19 Jan, 12:00–13:00 CET, UNU-MERIT will host a new session of our Research Seminars. Sandwiches will be available from 11:45!

Lecturer: Travis Lybbert (UC Davis).

Location: UNU-MERIT, Boschstraat 24, Room 0.18.



The Roma have faced poverty, discrimination and even enslavement and extermination since immigrating to Europe from India in the early 12th century. Persistent disparities between Roma and non-Roma throughout Europe have prompted longstanding integration efforts of many kinds. Drawing on the literature on identity, aspirations, social capital, and the economics of religiosity, we explore the impacts of religious engagement on the integration of this marginalized population into broader society as captured by increased educational attainment.

Using data from 12 Eastern European countries, we construct religiosity measures for the Roma and their non-Roma neighbors and use LASSO to explore predictors of religiosity in Muslim and Christian communities. We then estimate the effect of religiosity on educational attainment and expectations using lifetime parental exposure to communist-era religious restrictions as an instrument.

Parental religiosity tends to increase educational attainment and expectations, but with differences by historical Ottoman Empire influence.

A placebo test among non-Roma households reveals no similar religiosity effects on educational outcomes. These largely exploratory results are consistent with a model wherein religious engagement softens oppositional identities in favor of mainstream education norms and expectations. The role religious institutions may play in ultimately integrating the Roma and enhancing their future prospects merits further attention.

About the speaker

As an applied economist, Dr. Lybbert’s research focuses on the microeconomics of development, risk and technology diffusion. This core focus encompasses four primary areas in applied microeconomics: poverty dynamics and vulnerability; rural economic development; risk and uncertainty; and technology adoption and innovation policy.

Venue: 0.18, UNU-MERIT, Boschstraat 24, 6211 AX Maastricht

Date: 19 January 2023

Time: 12:00 - 13:00Β Β CET