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

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  • Jonathan Gruber
  • Daniel M. Hungerman

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based on state laws that prohibit retail activity on Sunday, known as %u201Cblue laws.%u201D Many states have repealed these laws in recent years, raising the opportunity cost of religious participation. We construct a model which predicts, under fairly general conditions, that allowing retail activity on Sundays will lower attendance levels but may increase or decrease religious donations. We then use a variety of datasets 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 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the gap in heavy drinking between religious and non religious individuals falls by about half after the laws are repealed.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12410.

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Date of creation: Aug 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12410

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  1. Robert J. Barro & Rachel McCleary, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 9682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Raymond Gradus, 1996. "The economic effects of extending shop opening hours," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 64(3), pages 247-263, October.
  3. McCleary, Rachel & Barro, Robert, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth across Countries," Scholarly Articles 3708464, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Michael McBride, 2005. "Why Hasn’t Economic Growth Killed Religion?," Working Papers 050602, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  5. Jonathan Gruber & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2005. "Faith-Based Charity and Crowd Out during the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 11332, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Robert J. Barro & Rachel M. Mccleary, 2005. "Which Countries Have State Religions?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1331-1370, November.
  7. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "A Case for Quantity Regulation," NBER Working Papers 8184, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275, February.
  9. Jonathan Gruber, 2005. "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?," NBER Working Papers 11377, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Gruber Jonathan H, 2005. "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-32, September.
  11. Gordon Tullock, 1975. "The Transitional Gains Trap," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 6(2), pages 671-678, Autumn.
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