McCleary holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago, a Master of Theological Studies from Emory University, and a B.A. from Indiana University.
McCleary's work is interdisciplinary with theoretical grounding in the fields of political science, sociology, and economics. Within these disciplines, she conducts research on the political economy of religion. Her research focuses on how religion interacts with economic performance and the political and social behavior of individuals and institutions across societies. McCleary studies how religious beliefs and practices influence productivity, economic growth, and the maintenance of political institutions such as democracy. Her and her husband's work was cited in the March 25, 2013 edition of Bloomberg.
McCleary is married to economist Robert Barro.
- The Wealth of Religions: The Political Economy of Believing and Belonging," (co-author Robert Barro). (Princeton University Press, 2019);
- Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion (editor). (Oxford University Press, 2011);
- Global Compassion: Private Voluntary Agencies and U.S. Foreign Policy since 1939 to Present (Oxford University Press 2009) and Winner of the Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy (2010);
- Dictating Democracy: Guatemala and the End of Violent Revolution (University Press of Florida, 1999–English; Artemis-Edinter 1999–Spanish);
- Seeking Justice: Ethics and International Affairs (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992).
Journal articles and book chapters
- "Pentecostals, Kinship, and Moral Economy in Guatemala," Journal Markets and Morals, Spring 2018.
- "Protestant Innovative Evangelizing to Oral Cultures in Guatemala," Chapter, Oxford Handbook of Latin American Christianity, edited by Susan Fitzpatrick Behrens, David Orique, and Virginia Garrard-Burnett, forthcoming 2018.
- "Saints Marching In, 1590-2012", (with Robert Barro) Economica forthcoming 2016. doi:10.1111/ecca.12196
- "The Economics of Sainthood," (with Robert Barro), chapter, Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion (2011). doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195390049.013.0010
- "The Market Approach to the Rise of the Geluk School in Tibet, 1419–1642," (with Leonard van der Kuijp) The Journal of Asian Studies 69, 1 (2010). doi:10.1017/S0021911809991574
- "Religious Conversion in 40 Countries" (with Robert Barro and Jason Hwang), Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (49, 1 (2010). doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2009.01490.x
- "Private Voluntary Organizations Engaged in International Assistance, 1939–2004" (with Robert Barro), Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 37, 2 (2008). doi:10.1177/0899764007313719
- "Religion and Economic Development: A Two-way Causation", Policy Review 148, April – May 2008.
- "The Economics of Religion and Secularization", The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Spring 2007. doi:10.1080/15570274.2007.9523277
- "Salvation, Damnation, and Economic Incentives", Journal of Contemporary Religion, January 2007. doi:10.1080/13537900601114503
- "Religion and Political Economy in an International Panel", (with Robert Barro) Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, June 2006. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2006.00299.x
- "Religion and Economy", (with Robert Barro) Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring 2006. doi:10.1257/jep.20.2.49
- "Which Countries Have State Religions?" (with Robert Barro), Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2005. doi:10.1162/003355305775097515
- "Religion and Economy", Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2005. doi:10.1002/9781405165518.wbeose016
- "Religion and Economic Growth", (with Robert Barro) Milken Institute Review, April 2004.
- "Religion and Economic Growth Across Countries", (with Robert Barro) American Sociological Review, October 2003. doi:10.2307/1519761
- "Protestantism and Human Capital in Guatemala and the Republic of Korea", Asian Development Bank Working Paper Series, No. 332, January 2013.