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The Church versus the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?

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  • Jonathan Gruber

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and National Bureau of Economic Research)

  • Daniel M. Hungerman

    (University of Notre Dame and National Bureau of Economic Research)

Abstract

Recently economists have begun to consider the causes and consequences of religious participation. An unanswered question in this literature is the effect upon individuals of changes in the opportunity cost of religious participation. In this paper we identify a policy-driven change in the opportunity cost of religious participation based on state laws that prohibit retail activity on Sunday, known as "blue laws." Many states have repealed these laws in recent years, raising the opportunity cost of religious participation. We use a variety of data sets to show that when a state repeals its blue laws religious attendance falls and that church donations and spending fall as well. These results do not seem to be driven by declines in religiosity prior to the law change, nor do we see comparable declines in membership in or giving to nonreligious organizations after a state repeals its laws. We then assess the effects of changes in these laws on drinking and drug use behavior in the NLSY. We find that repealing blue laws leads to an increase in drinking and drug use and that this increase is found only among the initially religious individuals who were affected by the blue laws. The effect is economically significant; for example, the gap in heavy drinking between religious and nonreligious individuals falls by about half after the laws are repealed. (c) 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 123 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (05)
Pages: 831-862

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:2:p:831-862

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Cited by:
  1. Francesco Giavazzi & Ivan Petkov & Fabio Schiantarelli, 2014. "Culture: Persistence and Evolution," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 853, Boston College Department of Economics.
  2. Holger Strulik, 2012. "From Worship to Worldly Pleasures: Secularization and Long-Run Economic Growth," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 116, Courant Research Centre PEG.
  3. Rajshri Jayaraman & Dora Simroth, 2011. "The Impact of School Lunches on Primary School Enrollment: Evidence from India's Midday Meal Scheme," CESifo Working Paper Series 3679, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Martin Leroch & Carlo Reggiani & Gianpaolo Rossini & Eugenio Zucchelli, 2012. "Religious attitudes and home bias: theory and evidence from a pilot study," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 1206, Economics, The University of Manchester.
  5. Sascha O. Becker & Markus Nagler & Ludger Woessmann, 2014. "Education Promoted Secularization," CESifo Working Paper Series 4684, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Mariya Aleksynska & Barry Chiswick, 2013. "The determinants of religiosity among immigrants and the native born in Europe," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 563-598, December.
  7. Teemu Lyytikäinen & Torsten Santavirta, 2013. "The effect of church tax on church membership," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 1175-1193, July.
  8. Michael Frakes & Matthew Harding, 2009. "The Deterrent Effect of Expansions in Death Penalty Eligibility Criteria," Discussion Papers 08-033, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  9. Adam D. Rennhoff & Mark F. Owens, 2012. "Competition and the Strategic Choices of Churches," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 152-70, August.
  10. Cohen-Zada, Danny & Sander, William, 2010. "Religious Participation versus Shopping: What Makes People Happier?," IZA Discussion Papers 5198, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano, 2013. "Culture and Institutions," NBER Working Papers 19750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Senay Agca & Deniz Igan, 2013. "Fiscal Consolidation and the Cost of Credit," IMF Working Papers 13/36, International Monetary Fund.
  13. Raphaël Franck & Laurence Iannaccone, 2014. "Religious decline in the 20th century West: testing alternative explanations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 385-414, June.
  14. Granger, Karen & Lu, Vinh Nhat & Conduit, Jodie & Veale, Roberta & Habel, Cullen, 2014. "Keeping the faith! Drivers of participation in spiritually-based communities," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 68-75.

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