Does Religion Sort Like-Minded People into Places? A Study of Religiosity, Migration, and Destinations in Nepal

Nathalie Williams1, Prem Bhandari2, Christina Hughes1, Jeffrey Swindle2, Arland Thornton2, Linda Young-De Marco2
1University of Washington, 2University of Michigan

In this paper, we examine the influence of religiosity on migration and destination choice. Drawing from theories in the Sociology of Religion and Migration Studies, we derive hypotheses that predict how frequency of prayer and importance placed on religion (often called internal religiosity) are related to migration choices. Our empirical analysis is based on detailed panel data from the Chitwan Valley Family Study, using the Hindu population of the study as our sample.  We find evidence that higher importance of religion and frequency of prayers is associated with migration to Hindu destinations. We also find evidence of pre-departure adaptation, whereby after the migration decision is made but before a migrant departs, the importance of religion decreases and prayer frequency increases. We discuss what these results mean for the geographic distribution of people by religion and what they imply for the difference between migrants and the host populations in their destinations.