The influence of Lent on marriages and conceptions explored through a new methodology

Abstract : What is the influence of religion on the actual behavior of people? The present paper introduces a methodology which permits a quantitative assessment. [1] have elsewhere analyzed the impact of Lent (prior to Easter) and Advent (prior to Christmas) on births in Romania. Here we broaden the analysis (i) by studying the effect of Lent on marriages as well as births (ii) by analyzing a number of other countries which allows a comparison with non-Orthodox countries. We also introduce a new methodology (that we call the “overlap probe”) which treats the data in a way that avoids any bias related to seasonal patterns. The comparison between the effects on marriages and conceptions appears of particular interest for it permits to assess the respective weights of social pressure on one hand and personal behavior on the other hand. Our analysis reveals a strong effect of Lent on marriages with a reduction by 80% in Eastern Orthodox countries and 40% in West European Catholic and Protestant countries. Since the influence of Lent on conceptions is independent of any form of direct social control one expects this effect to be much smaller. This is born out by our results which show that the birth effect is about 10 times smaller than the marriage effect. The overlap methodology is so accurate that it allows us to determine the average length of pregnancy (from intercourse to birth) with a precision of 2 or 3 days. This methodology is also used to investigate the impact of the month of Ramadan on birth and suicide rates.
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Claudiu Herteliu, Peter Richmond, Bertrand Roehner. The influence of Lent on marriages and conceptions explored through a new methodology. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, 2019, 532, pp.121768. ⟨10.1016/j.physa.2019.121768⟩. ⟨hal-02178823⟩

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