Chris Blattman

Religious identity and economic behavior

Experimental evidence of Weber’s spirit of capitalism and the Protestant work ethic?

we introduce exogenous variation in the strength of religious identity norms by varying the salience of religious identity in laboratory subjects using a method from social psychology…

We find that Protestantism increases contributions to the public good, and there is suggestive evidence that it increases reciprocity in the gift-exchange game—that is, the rate at which worker effort increases in response to higher wage offers by the manager. Catholicism decreases contributions to public goods, increases gift-exchange reciprocity, and decreases risk aversion. Judaism increases gift exchange reciprocity. We find no evidence of religious identity effects on discount rates or generosity in a dictator game.

That is my colleague James Choi writing with co-authors Daniel Benjamin and Geoffrey Fisher. Paper is here. You should also check out James’ excellent blog.

Here is a more general paper of his on social identity and economic preferences. If you like this subject, you should read Akerlof and Kranton too.

3 Responses

  1. Thank you for your post, it is an interesting paper. As we know, religious conducts have been for a long period of times kept apart from the economic field. However, until recently we have been witnessed a tendency, from some prominent scholars, to link religious behavior to economics inquiries. Study shown that Protestantism encourages capital accumulation, consequently labor is a moral duty and morality followed from religious ethics will reduce the level of corruption thus increasing economic development. Whereas Catholicism because of its hierarchical status according to (La Porta 1997); relegated a negative effect on GDP and government efficiency. Finally I agree with the author that the debate about religion’s effect on economic outcomes has being hindered by the difficulty in identifying exogenous variations in religion.

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