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.


  • Francesco Cinnirella, ifo Institute,, Germany
  • Sascha Becker, University of Warwick, , UK

Session members

  • Philipp Ager, University of Southern Denmark,
  • Sascha Becker, University of Warwick,
  • Jeanet Bentzen , University of Copenhagen,
  • Eric Chaney , Harvard University,
  • Francesco Cinnirella, ifo Institute,
  • Alireza Naghavi , University of Bologna,
  • Giovanni Prarolo, University of Bologna,
  • Mara Squicciarini , KU Leuven,
  • Felipe Valencia-Caicedo , University of Bonn,

Proposed discussant(s)

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