Proposal preview

The Impact of Religions on Economic Outcomes

Max Weber (1905) has been among the first social scientists to hypothesize a causal relationship between religion and economic outcomes. In this tradition, seminal papers like Botticini and Eckstein (2005; 2007) and Becker and Woessmann (2009) have analyzed how Judaism and Protestantism, respectively, affected economic outcomes through the accumulation of human capital. Since then, the study of the impact of religions in historical perspective has experienced a strong increase. The discovery of new data sources at the micro-regional or municipal level, together with the adoption of advanced econometric strategies, allowed investigating the effect of religion on various economic outcomes in historical perspective.
In particular, many scholars have studied the short and long-run impact of the Protestant Reformation in 1517 (Becker et al. 2016). This literature has identified sizable effects of Protestantism on outcomes such as education (Becker and Woessmann 2009; Cantoni 2015), the adoption of new technologies (Rubin 2014), conflicts (Iygun 2008), state capacity (Dittmar and Meisenzahl 2017) and economic secularization (Cantoni et al. 2017).
The aim of this session is to gather new case-studies which expand the literature in various dimensions, such as other denominations, historical periods, or geographic regions. Examples of topics that will be discussed in the proposed session are: the impact of Muslim presence in historical Spain on the accumulation of human capital and innovation during the industrial revolution; the effect of Catholic censorship on socioeconomic outcomes during the Counter-Reformation period (1545-1648); the positive impact of openness and religious tolerance on innovation in Germany; the negative impact of the intensity of religiosity on the accumulation of technological skills in nineteenth-century France; the long-run impact of Catholic missions in shaping cooperation and social capital in Latin America; the role of natural disasters, such as the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, on church membership as a form of social insurance; finally, the long-run impact of religions on gender roles.

Organizer(s)

  • Francesco Cinnirella University of Southern Denmark cinnirella@sam.sdu.dk Denmark
  • Sascha Becker University of Warwick s.o.becker@warwick.ac.uk UK

Session members

  • Philipp Ager, University of Southern Denmark
  • Jordi Vidal Robert, University of Sidney
  • Jeanet Bentzen , University of Copenhagen
  • Eric Chaney , Oxford University
  • Francesco Cinnirella, University of Southern Denmark
  • Alireza Naghavi , University of Bologna
  • Mara Squicciarini , Bocconi University
  • Felipe Valencia-Caicedo , University of British Columbia
  • Melanie Xue, Northwestern University
  • Uwe Sunde, University of Munich

Discussant(s)

Papers

Panel abstract

1st half

Adam's Rib and Women's Rights: Religiosity and Gender roles Around the Globe

Jeanet Bentzen, Hans-Joachim Voth

This paper investigates empirically the role than religion has played in keeping gender roles from equalizing in some countries. The role played by religion is thought of as the following; religious texts were written down at a point in time with high inequality, also among the sexes. Since the texts were written down in accordance with existing norms, the texts work as a transmitter of the traditional value, gender inequality. On a global sample of individuals from the pooled World Values Survey and European Values Study, we find that religious individuals are more inclined to regard women as more subordinate. Also when including subnational district fixed effects and various individual-level controls. Getting at causality, we use the idea by Bentzen (2015) that earthquakes instigates exogenous variation in religiosity due to religious coping. We thus show that gender inequality increases when religiosity increases exogenously.

This paper investigates empirically the role than religion has played in keeping gender roles from equalizing in some countries. The role played by religion is thought of as the following; religious texts were written down at a point in time with high inequality, also among the sexes. Since the texts were written down in accordance with existing norms, the texts work as a transmitter of the traditional value, gender inequality. On a global sample of individuals from the pooled World Values Survey and European Values Study, we find that religious individuals are more inclined to regard women as more subordinate. Also when including subnational district fixed effects and various individual-level controls. Getting at causality, we use the idea by Bentzen (2015) that earthquakes instigates exogenous variation in religiosity due to religious coping. We thus show that gender inequality increases when religiosity increases exogenously.

Church Membership and Social Insurance: Evidence from the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

Philipp Ager, Casper Worm Hansen, Lars Lønstrup

Religious communities are key providers of social insurance. This paper focuses on the devastating impact of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 to investigate how an increase in the demand for social insurance affects church membership. We find a significant increase in church membership in flooded counties. This effect is stronger in counties with severe economic losses and where access to credit was limited. We also document that fundamental denominations gained more members in flooded counties, which is consistent with the theory of club goods emphasizing the efficient provision of mutual insurance in stricter religious communities.

Religious communities are key providers of social insurance. This paper focuses on the devastating impact of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 to investigate how an increase in the demand for social insurance affects church membership. We find a significant increase in church membership in flooded counties. This effect is stronger in counties with severe economic losses and where access to credit was limited. We also document that fundamental denominations gained more members in flooded counties, which is consistent with the theory of club goods emphasizing the efficient provision of mutual insurance in stricter religious communities.

Christ's Shadow: Non-Cognitive Skills and Prosocial Behavior Amongst the Guarani

Felipe Valencia-Caicedo, Hans-Joachim Voth

This article studies human capital formation, beyond formal education, among the Guarani, in modern-day Paraguay and Argentina. We focus on non-cognitive skills and pro-social behavior by conducting a household survey and performing a lab-in-the-field experiments in the areas where Catholic religious missionaries proselytized historically. We find higher non-cognitive skills and pro-social behavior in former Jesuit missionary areas, consistent with this Order’s focus on human capital and particular religious values. Current inhabitants of former Jesuit missions exhibit a higher Rotter Locus of Control, less cheating, more altruistic behavior and higher positive reciprocity. Clear differences emerge with respect to respondents in former Franciscan missionary areas. The persistent results are consistent with cultural transmission mechanisms of occupational persistence and inter-generational knowledge transmission. Results do not seem driven by religion per se, as evidenced by a religious priming experiment.

This article studies human capital formation, beyond formal education, among the Guarani, in modern-day Paraguay and Argentina. We focus on non-cognitive skills and pro-social behavior by conducting a household survey and performing a lab-in-the-field experiments in the areas where Catholic religious missionaries proselytized historically. We find higher non-cognitive skills and pro-social behavior in former Jesuit missionary areas, consistent with this Order’s focus on human capital and particular religious values. Current inhabitants of former Jesuit missions exhibit a higher Rotter Locus of Control, less cheating, more altruistic behavior and higher positive reciprocity. Clear differences emerge with respect to respondents in former Franciscan missionary areas. The persistent results are consistent with cultural transmission mechanisms of occupational persistence and inter-generational knowledge transmission. Results do not seem driven by religion per se, as evidenced by a religious priming experiment.

Folklore

Melanie Meng Xue, Stelios Michalopoulos

Folklore is the collection of traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth. In this study we do four things. First, we introduce a unique dataset of folklore that codes the presence of thousands of motifs for roughly 1,000 pre-industrial societies. Second, we use a dictionary-based approach to elicit the group-specific intensity of various traits related to its natural environment, institutional framework, and mode of subsistence. We establish that such measures are in accordance with the ethnographic record. Third, we use oral traditions to shed light on the historical cultural values of these ethnographic societies. Doing so allows us to test various influential hypotheses among anthropologists including the original affluent society, the culture of honor among pastoralists, the role of women in plough-using groups, and the intensity of rule-following norms in centralized societies.

Folklore is the collection of traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth. In this study we do four things. First, we introduce a unique dataset of folklore that codes the presence of thousands of motifs for roughly 1,000 pre-industrial societies. Second, we use a dictionary-based approach to elicit the group-specific intensity of various traits related to its natural environment, institutional framework, and mode of subsistence. We establish that such measures are in accordance with the ethnographic record. Third, we use oral traditions to shed light on the historical cultural values of these ethnographic societies. Doing so allows us to test various influential hypotheses among anthropologists including the original affluent society, the culture of honor among pastoralists, the role of women in plough-using groups, and the intensity of rule-following norms in centralized societies.

Education and Enlightenment in France

Lukas Rosenberger and Uwe Sunde

The role of the enlightenment for the first industrial revolution and long-run development has only recently returned to the focus of economists. One of the unresolved questions in this context concerns which factors were responsible for the receptiveness of the population that allowed for the spread of enlightenment and dissemination of economically useful knowledge. To study this aspect, this analysis focuses on the determinants of the demand for the Encyclopédie in France. The analysis is based on a novel data set about the establishment of secondary schools (collèges) in France during the Ancien Régime, school size at the eve of the French Revolution and information about the curriculum. The findings show that municipalities with a school that offered some basic scientific education exhibited substantially more per capita subscriptions to the Encyclopédie than municipalities without such basic scientific education in secondary schools.

The role of the enlightenment for the first industrial revolution and long-run development has only recently returned to the focus of economists. One of the unresolved questions in this context concerns which factors were responsible for the receptiveness of the population that allowed for the spread of enlightenment and dissemination of economically useful knowledge. To study this aspect, this analysis focuses on the determinants of the demand for the Encyclopédie in France. The analysis is based on a novel data set about the establishment of secondary schools (collèges) in France during the Ancien Régime, school size at the eve of the French Revolution and information about the curriculum. The findings show that municipalities with a school that offered some basic scientific education exhibited substantially more per capita subscriptions to the Encyclopédie than municipalities without such basic scientific education in secondary schools.

2nd half

Religion and the Rise and Fall of Islamic Science

Eric Chaney

The rise and subsequent decline of scientific output in the medieval Islamic world are documented and linked to institutional changes. The expansion of secular bureaucratic institutions led to the rise of scientific production whereas their contraction ---and the concomitant rise in the political power of religious leaders--- explains the decline. Newly empowered religious elites altered the educational framework to discourage the unrestricted study of science and other topics that undermined their control over popular beliefs. The paper concludes that secular state capacity can stimulate scientific development by constraining rent-seeking religious elites.

The rise and subsequent decline of scientific output in the medieval Islamic world are documented and linked to institutional changes. The expansion of secular bureaucratic institutions led to the rise of scientific production whereas their contraction ---and the concomitant rise in the political power of religious leaders--- explains the decline. Newly empowered religious elites altered the educational framework to discourage the unrestricted study of science and other topics that undermined their control over popular beliefs. The paper concludes that secular state capacity can stimulate scientific development by constraining rent-seeking religious elites.

Islam, Human Capital, and Innovation in Historical Spain

Francesco Cinnirella, Alireza Naghavi, Giovanni Prarolo

This research aims to investigate how religion may affect the evolution of education, scientific discoveries and the implementation of technological innovations. We address these issues using a unique novel dataset containing yearly data on Muslim presence for each Spanish municipality, digitize literacy rate for 7500 municipalities in 1900 Spain, and geo-reference the universe of patents granted in Spain in the period 1878-1939. We estimate the local impact of the length of Muslim dominance in the medieval period on literacy rate and patenting activity in early modern Spain. This helps explain the highly debated question whether Muslim societies played a significant role in the stimulation and the dissemination of new inventions, or if Muslim authorities instead used state power to block scientific discoveries and modern ideas viewed incompatible with religious beliefs. The findings reveal a very robust negative relationship between duration of Muslim rule and levels of human capital and innovation.

This research aims to investigate how religion may affect the evolution of education, scientific discoveries and the implementation of technological innovations. We address these issues using a unique novel dataset containing yearly data on Muslim presence for each Spanish municipality, digitize literacy rate for 7500 municipalities in 1900 Spain, and geo-reference the universe of patents granted in Spain in the period 1878-1939. We estimate the local impact of the length of Muslim dominance in the medieval period on literacy rate and patenting activity in early modern Spain. This helps explain the highly debated question whether Muslim societies played a significant role in the stimulation and the dissemination of new inventions, or if Muslim authorities instead used state power to block scientific discoveries and modern ideas viewed incompatible with religious beliefs. The findings reveal a very robust negative relationship between duration of Muslim rule and levels of human capital and innovation.

Religious Tolerance as Engine of Innovation

Francesco Cinnirella, Jochen Streb

We argue that, for a given level of scientific knowledge, tolerance and diversity are conducive to technological creativity and innovation. We show that variation in innovations within Prussia during the second industrial revolution can be ascribed to differences in religious tolerance that developed in continental Europe from the Peace of Westphalia onwards. By matching a unique historical dataset about religious tolerance in 1,278 Prussian cities with valuable patents for the period 1877-1890, we show that higher levels of religious tolerance are strongly positively associated with innovation during the second industrial revolution. Endogeneity issues are addressed using local variation across-cities within counties and using propensity score matching. Regarding the channels of transmission, we find that cities with higher levels of religious tolerance attracted a larger share of migrants. Finally, higher levels of religious diversity in the population translated into higher levels of religious diversity in the workforce by industrial sector.

We argue that, for a given level of scientific knowledge, tolerance and diversity are conducive to technological creativity and innovation. We show that variation in innovations within Prussia during the second industrial revolution can be ascribed to differences in religious tolerance that developed in continental Europe from the Peace of Westphalia onwards. By matching a unique historical dataset about religious tolerance in 1,278 Prussian cities with valuable patents for the period 1877-1890, we show that higher levels of religious tolerance are strongly positively associated with innovation during the second industrial revolution. Endogeneity issues are addressed using local variation across-cities within counties and using propensity score matching. Regarding the channels of transmission, we find that cities with higher levels of religious tolerance attracted a larger share of migrants. Finally, higher levels of religious diversity in the population translated into higher levels of religious diversity in the workforce by industrial sector.

Devotion and Development: Religiosity, Education, and Economic Progress in 19th-Century France

Mara Squicciarini

This paper uses a historical setting to study when religion can be a barrier to the diffusion of knowledge and economic development. I focus on 19th-century Catholicism and analyze a crucial phase of modern economic growth, the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914) in France. In this period, technology became skill-intensive, leading to the introduction of technical education in primary schools. At the same time, the Catholic Church was promoting a particularly anti-scientific program and opposed the adoption of a technical curriculum. Using data collected from primary and secondary sources, I exploit preexisting variation in the intensity of Catholicism (i.e., religiosity) among French districts. I show that the more religious districts had lower economic development only during the Second Industrial Revolution, but not before. Schooling appears to be the key mechanism: more religious areas saw a slower introduction of the technical curriculum and instead a push for religious education.

This paper uses a historical setting to study when religion can be a barrier to the diffusion of knowledge and economic development. I focus on 19th-century Catholicism and analyze a crucial phase of modern economic growth, the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914) in France. In this period, technology became skill-intensive, leading to the introduction of technical education in primary schools. At the same time, the Catholic Church was promoting a particularly anti-scientific program and opposed the adoption of a technical curriculum. Using data collected from primary and secondary sources, I exploit preexisting variation in the intensity of Catholicism (i.e., religiosity) among French districts. I show that the more religious districts had lower economic development only during the Second Industrial Revolution, but not before. Schooling appears to be the key mechanism: more religious areas saw a slower introduction of the technical curriculum and instead a push for religious education.

The Economic Effects of Catholic Church Censorship During the Counter-Reformation

Sascha Becker, Francisco Pino, Jordi Vidal-Robert

We present a new database of the population of books censored by the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation period (16th and beginning of 17th centuries) containing information on titles, authors, georeferenced printing places and printers. We identify censored books by topic (religion, sciences, social sciences and arts), languages, countries where books where prohibited, and describe patterns of censorship across political entities in Europe over time, using the index produced in Rome (starting in 1564) as well as local indexes of prohibited books such as the Index of Louvain and the Index of the Spanish Inquisition. We then test the effects of censorship on the number of printed books, on the location of thinkers, on the spread of Protestantism and ultimately on city growth. Preliminary results suggest that Catholic censorship did have an impact on the publication of books and, therefore, on the diffusion of knowledge.

We present a new database of the population of books censored by the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation period (16th and beginning of 17th centuries) containing information on titles, authors, georeferenced printing places and printers. We identify censored books by topic (religion, sciences, social sciences and arts), languages, countries where books where prohibited, and describe patterns of censorship across political entities in Europe over time, using the index produced in Rome (starting in 1564) as well as local indexes of prohibited books such as the Index of Louvain and the Index of the Spanish Inquisition. We then test the effects of censorship on the number of printed books, on the location of thinkers, on the spread of Protestantism and ultimately on city growth. Preliminary results suggest that Catholic censorship did have an impact on the publication of books and, therefore, on the diffusion of knowledge.