Religiosity, financial distress and R&D accounting treatment in US Context

Ines Gharbi, Mounira Hamed-Sidhom, Khaled Hussainey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: Prior research shows that religiosity affects the degree of managers' risk aversion. As a result, religious firms are less likely to invest in R&D activities. Moreover, US GAAP treats these investments as expenses. For this reason, religious firms have fewer expenses in their earnings and are less likely to be in financial distress.

Design/methodology/approach: Data are collected from Worldscope and the Churches and Church Membership files of the American Religion Data Archive website from 1985 to 2018. With 18,199 observations in US context, the authors used the marginal effect to test the mediating effect of R&D accounting treatment.

Findings: The authors find that the marginal effect of religiosity on financial distress with US GAAP is higher than the marginal effect of religiosity on financial distress with capitalization of R&D costs, which means that accounting treatment can explain the relation between religiosity and financial distress in the US context.

Research limitations/implications: The authors used linear interpolation and linear extrapolation data to be able to conduct this research over a period of 1985–2018. For future researches, the authors propose to test other factors which can explain the relationship between religiosity and financial distress based on the ethics element.

Practical implications: These results should be of interest to regulators because treating R&D activities as expenses can destroy the accounting performance of firms that prefer investing in risky projects. This favoritism prevents the comparison between two firms in the same industry with different risk-taking behaviors. This problem is more prevalent if the authors have two firms with different ratios of religiosity. This paper suffers from a major limitation related to data availability.

Originality/value: This may be the first study that investigates why religious firms are less likely to be in financial distress. This paper notes that religious firms are less likely to be in financial distress because their conservative behavior towards R&D activities coincides with the conservative R&D accounting treatment. In fact, the mismatch between expenses and revenues from R&D activities can cause financial distress.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Accounting Research
Early online date28 Sept 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 28 Sept 2023


  • religiosity
  • R&D activities accounting treatment
  • financial distress
  • marginal effect method
  • risk Aversion

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