Demography, Faith and Conflict

Led by Henrik Urdal


This research project is organized around the theme of national and international tension arising from global variation in belief structures, family forms and ideals, and implications for risk of conflict. Family constellations and attitudes play a role in determining demographic outcomes and can also determine societal confrontational lines and conflicts. 

Tensions related to religion and family views have, by some measures, increased in recent years. This can include acceptance of polygamy, religious intermarriage and views on the role of women. Religion is an important identity marker, a​nd a growing share of global conflicts has a religious angle. 

In European countries, religiously motivated terror is increasingly a concern. Opposing and increasingly divided attitudes and behaviours regarding family values such as abortion and same-sex marriage may be markers of greater inter-religious tensions, and serve to intensify latent conflict between some religiously conservative minority groups and increasingly liberal and secular majority populations in many European countries. 

​Our Vision

Our vision is to become a leading research team in the field of demography, conflict, religion and family composition. We seek to investigate how differences in family type and religion affect socioeconomic tensions and conflict risks, and study the conditions for peaceful coexistence. We aim to deliver high quality knowledge from cross-cutting and innovative research endeavours in social science that contribute to help overcoming challenges of contemporary and future demographic change.


Research objectives (pending funding) 

  • To build a database on family constellations of religious communities for all countries of the world;
  • To analyse the relationship between family forms of different groups and countries and the risk of intra-state and international conflicts and tensions; 
  • To study implications of different family views (e.g., attitudes towards contraception, homosexuality) on group relations between within countries. Measures include attitudes and behaviours, e.g., electoral outcomes, support for terrorism, incidences of violence, residential segregation.

Our Team

We are researchers from conflict research, political science, demography, economics, and statistics. Our experience has been in leading cutting edge projects on demography of religion, family forms, human capital formation, value change and conflict. 

Funders include European Research Council (ERC), Pew Research Center, and the United Nations. 

Media coverage include The Economist, Financial Times, CNN, BBC, Times of India, The Mainichi Japan, China Daily, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the New York Times.

Our Achievements

We have published widely, including in Demography, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, PNAS, Science, American Journal of Political Science and edited both conflict and religious disciplinary journals. We have also received recognitions and prizes from demographic, religious and sociological disciplinary organizations. 

Some relevant previous publications and working papers from team members include: 

Upcoming events: 

​PRIO Workshop on H2020 proposal ‘Religious diversity in Europe - past, present and future’ (by invitation only). 
Time: 7-8 November, 2016 
Venue: War Room, PRIO, Hausmanns gate 3, 0186 Oslo

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