Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

The Origin of Fatalistic Tendencies: An Empirical Investigation

Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

The Origin of Fatalistic Tendencies: An Empirical Investigation

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. We maintain that fatalistic tendencies are the output of the interaction between cultural factors (and in particular of religion) and historical institutional experiences. This idea has been empirically tested using World Value Survey data. We find that a more regulated society tends to be also more fatalistic. At the same time, also religious beliefs and their interactions with the institutional framework seem to be an important element determining fatalistic tendencies. For what regards the direct effect of religious affiliation on fatalism, we find that there are not large differences across the various faiths. In other terms, being religious independently from the religious affiliation implies a more fatalistic view of life.

Keywords: culture, fatalism, institutions, religion, Weber Durkheim.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


Fatalism has been shown to play a significant role in determining a vast range of individual behaviors including saving decisions, occupational choices, health screening behaviors, natural disaster preparedness. The aim of this paper is to answer to the following questions: why are some populations more fatalistic than others? Where does fatalism come from?

To our knowledge only in Sociology there have been attempts to explain the origin of fatalistic tendencies (Durkheim, 1897; Weber, 1930; Acevedo, 2005, 2008) whilst economists have devoted less attention to this subject of research.

Among the few economists who have analyzed the role of fatalism in economic decision, Alesina and Angeletos (2005) show how a system with more (less) redistribution can arise when individuals are less (more) likely to believe that effort determines income. In the same vein, Benabou and Tirole (2006) relate fatalism to the psychology literature and the notion of a "belief in a just world" in order to examine the interaction between ideology and redistribution systems. Wu (2005) analyzes the role of fatalism in determining household saving behaviors, finding that people characterized by fatalistic beliefs are less likely to save. Shapiro and Wu (2010) show that fatalism decreases savings for moderately risk averse individuals, but actually increases savings for highly risk averse individuals. Furthermore, fatalism decreases the effort in learning about savings and investment options.

D'orlando, Ferrante and Ruiu (2011) argue that the negative psychological impact of unemployment episodes is particularly severe for fatalistic people, who think that they cannot do anything to change their situations. Therefore, people characterized by fatalistic tendencies, would prefer employment protection legislation which reduces unemployment episodes (even though it increases the duration of unemployment) rather than unemployment benefits which compensate only the monetary but not the psychological costs of unemployment. Thus the varying impacts of these psychological costs on workers characterized by different degrees of fatalism may explain the different choices made by different countries.

Ruiu (2012) sustains that fatalistic beliefs may represent an important cultural barrier for entrepreneurship.

The role of fatalism has been studied also in medical literature, where it is regarded as a serious obstacle to the adoption of health screening behaviors (Straughan and Seow, 1998; Nelson et al., 2002; Niederdeppe and Gurmankin-Levy, 2007)1.

Finally in clinical psychology, there exist various studies showing that fatalism significantly impacts both the preparedness of individuals to deal with announced natural disasters, i.e., fatalism obstacles the adoption of self-protecting behaviours, and the ability to cope with the psychological consequence of a natural disaster, i.e., fatalism amplifies the post traumatic stress suffered by the victims of such disasters (Perilla et al., 2002; McClure et al., 1999, 2001, 2007).

All these evidences indicate that a better understanding of the causes of fatalistic beliefs formation may be of crucial importance for a policy maker. …

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