Despite scholarly projections of the demise of religion, religious groups in many parts of the world are growing. A great deal of this growth can be attributed to the higher fertility of religious people compared to their secular counterparts. Studies of diverse human populations demonstrate that parents in modern societies sacrifice number of children for quality of children. Even though children born to large families are expected to suffer physiological, psychological and social obstacles to flourishing, children born into religious communities appear buffered from the detrimental effects of high fertility. Currently, this paradox of religious fertility is unexplained.
This proposal requests fifteen months of support to prepare an ambitious multi-year grant proposal to explore how religions simultaneously influence human reproductive decisions and promote child success. It will develop an infrastructure capable of systematic cross-disciplinary investigation, meld the evolution of cooperation literatures with religious demography literatures, and begin to test the hypothesis that cooperative childrearing in religious groups mitigates the costs of high fertility. The results of this support will be publicly available bibliographies, completed analyses of pre-existing data, and a grant proposal for research that has the potential to change how we understand the success and future of religion. More fundamentally, this planning grant is the first step toward research that could provide insight into how religious communities foster human flourishing.