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Knocking on Heaven's Door? Protestantism and Suicide

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  • Sascha O. Becker
  • Ludger Woessmann

Abstract

We model the effect of Protestant vs. Catholic denomination in an economic theory of suicide, accounting for differences in religious-community integration, views about man’s impact on God’s grace, and the possibility of confessing sins. We test the theory using a unique micro-regional dataset of 452 counties in 19th-century Prussia, when religiousness was still pervasive. Our instrumental-variable model exploits the concentric dispersion of Protestantism around Wittenberg to circumvent selectivity bias. Protestantism had a substantial positive effect on suicide in 1816-21 and 1869-71. We address issues of bias from mental illness, misreporting, weather conditions, within-county heterogeneity, religious concentration, and gender composition.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3499.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3499

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Keywords: religion; suicide; Prussian economic history;

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References

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  1. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596, May.
  2. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
  3. Alan B. Krueger & Jitka Maleckova, 2003. "Education, Poverty and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 119-144, Fall.
  4. Oswald, A.J., 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Papers 18, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  5. Mary C. Daly & Daniel J. Wilson, 2008. "Happiness, unhappiness, and suicide: an empirical assessment," Working Paper Series 2008-19, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  6. Rosenthal, Robert W., 1993. "Suicide attempts and signalling games," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 25-33, July.
  7. Daly, Mary C. & Oswald, Andrew J. & Wilson, Daniel & Wu, Stephen, 2011. "Dark contrasts: The paradox of high rates of suicide in happy places," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 435-442.
  8. Christoph A. Schaltegger & Benno Torgler, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History: A Comment on Becker and Woessmann," School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series 248, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
  9. John F. Helliwell, 2004. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," NBER Working Papers 10896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Dave E. Marcotte, 2003. "The Economics of Suicide, Revisited," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 628-643, January.
  11. Wei-Chiao Huang, 1996. "Religion, culture, economic and sociological correlates of suicide rates: a cross-national analysis," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(12), pages 779-782.
  12. Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales & Luigi Guiso, 2006. "Does Culture Affect Economic Outcomes?," NBER Working Papers 11999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Efraim Benmelech & Claude Berrebi, 2007. "Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 223-238, Summer.
  14. Hartog,Joop & Maassen van den Brink,Henriëtte (ed.), 2009. "Human Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521117562, October.
  15. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Corrigenda [Introduction to the Economics of Religion]," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 1941-1941, December.
  16. Eli Berman & David D. Laitin, 2008. "Religion, Terrorism and Public Goods: Testing the Club Model," NBER Working Papers 13725, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Soss, Neal M, 1974. "An Economic Theory of Suicide," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 83-98, Jan.-Feb..
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Cited by:
  1. Becker, Sascha & Cinnirella, Francesco & Hornung, Eric & Woessmann, Ludger, 2012. "iPEHD - The ifo Prussian Economic History Database," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 96, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  2. Ludger Wößmann, 2010. "Die Bedeutung von Religion für die Bildung: Eine wirtschaftshistorische Forschungsagenda anhand preußischer Kreisdaten, Teil 1," Ifo Schnelldienst, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 63(23), pages 25-32, December.
  3. Benno Torgler & Christoph A Schaltegger, 2012. "Suicide and Religion: New Evidence on the Differences Between Protestantism and Catholicism," School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series 288, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.

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