International Institute for Religious Freedom

Measuring Subnational Variation in Freedom of Religion or Belief Violations

Reflections on a Path Forward


In recent years, numerous cross-country data collection instruments measuring freedom of religious or belief (FoRB) violations have become available. These have provided important insights, not least of which being the steady increase in religious discrimination across the globe. At the same time, the country-level focus of extant datasets often obscures subnational variation and leaves open important questions about the mechanisms driving FoRB violations in particular contexts. Through this article, we seek to initiate a more systematic discussion of how to collect, analyze, and, where appropriate, incorporate subnational measures of FoRB violations into global datasets. Drawing on original empirical fieldwork in Latin America, we emphasize the need for such efforts by showing that structural forms of religious discrimination observed at the subnational level often go unnoticed in existing global datasets. We then identify key conceptual and measurement challenges that should be addressed in order to better advance scholarship on subnational FoRB dynamics, as well integrate subnational and national data collection efforts. Our findings have implications for how we study and respond to the growing number of FoRB violations around the world.