About 40% of humans around the world may believe in witches or witchcraft, but it varies depending on where you live, according to a new survey recounted at Live Science. The study—published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One—was based on dataset gathered in six phases by Pew Research, which asked 140,000 people in 95 countries whether they believed in things like curses, the "evil eye," or spells that can make bad stuff happen to good people. From there, researchers deduced that roughly 1 billion people in the surveyed countries believe in witchcraft. Notably, the survey did not include the nearly 3 billion humans who live in India and China.
Location matters a lot: for example, just 9% of Swedes are believers compared to 90% of Tunisians. Education and financial status matter, too, but not as much as one might assume. Younger people, women, and those in urban areas were more likely to believe in witchcraft. Per the Jerusalem Post, researchers also found that "belief in witchcraft is positively correlated with faith in God and religiosity," with some 62% of Christians and 27% of Muslims acknowledging belief in magic. Study lead Boris Gershman, a Russian-born economist with a PhD from Brown, wrote that "understanding people’s witchcraft beliefs can be important for policymaking and other community engagement efforts."
Per Earth.com, Gershman also wrote that witchcraft carries negative societal costs, including "disrupted social relations, high levels of anxiety, pessimistic worldviews, and a marked lack of entrepreneurial culture and innovative activity." Gershman contends that studies like his can help policymakers account for local beliefs, particularly as it relates to development projects in economically depressed regions where belief in witchcraft is more likely to take hold. (Read more witchcraft stories.)