Magic trust is linked to a lack of trust for people in sub-Saharan Africa. And that a lack of social trust can be a barrier to economic development in struggling countries, according to new research findings. In areas where trust in magic is high, people tend to trust others, including their families, neighbors and local institutions, Boris Gershman, an American University economist in the May issue of the Journal of Development Economics. “What’s more, immigrant children from countries with a high prevalence of trust in magic are more prejudiced than immigrant children from other countries,” Gershman said in his findings. Demonstrating that the belief in black magic can contribute to the formation of a strong antisocial attitude. In his report on LiveScience, Gershman explained that economists and different cultural explorers have found positive roles from things such as trust and service in encouraging industry activities, economic growth, trade and a variety of positive socio-economic outcomes. So if true magic beliefs contribute to the erosion of social capital, this is a channel through which they can influence economic development.
Gershman’s analysis focused on data taken from the “Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life” survey conducted in 2008 and 2009 by including more than 25,000 people in 19 sub-Saharan countries. The survey revealed that around 57 percent of respondents believed in magic. Local beliefs in magic vary, but the common thread is that believers with misfortune (and diseases, including HIV) are the result of evil spells cast by others. Case studies in sub-Saharan Africa and in other societies with magical beliefs find that this belief spreads fear in two ways. First, people might be afraid of being bewitched. Second, and perhaps more frightening for many, is the fear of being accused of witchcraft, which can sometimes lead to murder. This fear can prevent people from cooperating with each other. “For example, in one case, people said they refused to provide food assistance to their neighbors because they were afraid that if something went wrong, if their neighbors were sick, they were afraid of being accused of doing magic,” Gershman said.