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Witchcraft Beliefs and Subjective Well-Being

Boris Gershman

No 2023-04, Working Papers from American University, Department of Economics

Abstract: This study examines the relationship between contemporary witchcraft beliefs and subjective well-being at the individual level. Using survey data from two waves of the Gallup World Poll in Sub-Saharan Africa, we show that witchcraft believers report lower levels of life satisfaction and are more likely to experience stress, worry, and sadness rather than happiness and enjoyment. Consistent with these patterns, a global dataset based on the Pew Research Center surveys reveals that witchcraft believers are less satisfied with how “things are going†in their countries. Both data sources further reveal a strong association between belief in witchcraft and an external locus of control expressed in fatalism and a perceived lack of freedom in making life choices. These findings are in line with the ethnographic evidence on the stress-inducing impact of witchcraft-related fears and contrast sharply with the widely explored role of religion and related supernatural beliefs in coping with anxiety.

Keywords: Happiness; Life satisfaction; Religion; Religiosity; Subjective well-being; Supernatural beliefs; Witchcraft (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I31 Z10 Z12 Z13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-evo and nep-hap
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