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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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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. Alan B. Krueger & Jitka Maleckova, 2003. "Education, Poverty and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 119-144, Fall.
  2. Berman, Eli & Laitin, David D., 2008. "Religion, terrorism and public goods: Testing the club model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1942-1967, October.
  3. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  4. Becker, Sascha O. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2007. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," IZA Discussion Papers 2886, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. 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.
  6. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Soss, Neal M, 1974. "An Economic Theory of Suicide," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 83-98, Jan.-Feb..
  7. Hartog,Joop & Maassen van den Brink,Henriëtte (ed.), 2009. "Human Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521117562.
  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, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology 248, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
  9. 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, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 435-442.
  10. Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales & Luigi Guiso, 2006. "Does Culture Affect Economic Outcomes?," NBER Working Papers 11999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Mary C. Daly & Daniel J. Wilson, 2009. "Happiness, Unhappiness, and Suicide: An Empirical Assessment," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 539-549, 04-05.
  12. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
  13. John F. Helliwell, 2004. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," NBER Working Papers 10896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Rosenthal, Robert W., 1993. "Suicide attempts and signalling games," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 25-33, July.
  15. Efraim Benmelech & Claude Berrebi, 2007. "Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 223-238, Summer.
  16. Wei-Chiao Huang, 1996. "Religion, culture, economic and sociological correlates of suicide rates: a cross-national analysis," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(12), pages 779-782.
  17. Dave E. Marcotte, 2003. "The Economics of Suicide, Revisited," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 628-643, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Benno Torgler & Christoph A. Schaltegger, 2012. "Suicide and Religion: New Evidence on The Differences Between Protestantism and Catholicism," CREMA Working Paper Series, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA) 2012-12, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  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. Becker, Sascha O. & Cinnirella, Francesco & Hornung, Erik & Woessmann, Ludger, 2012. "iPEHD – The ifo Prussian Economic History Database," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 9128, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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