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Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History: A Comment on Becker and Woessmann

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  • Christoph A. Schaltegger
  • Benno Torgler

Abstract

This comment makes a contribution to Becker and Woessmann’s paper on a human capital theory of Protestant economic history eventually challenging the famous thesis by Max Weber who attributed economic success to a specific Protestant work ethic (Quarterly Journal of Economics 124 (2) (2009) forthcoming). The authors argue for a human capital approach: higher literacy among Protestants of the 19th century (and not a Protestant work ethic) contributed to higher economic prosperity at that point in history. However, the paper leaves the question open as to whether a Protestant specific work ethic existed or exists at all. Are there observable denomination-based differences in work ethic or is Protestantism only a veil hiding the underlying role of education? We use recent data to explore the role of Protestantism on work ethic. The results indicate that today’s work ethic in fact is influenced by denomination-based religiosity and also education.

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File URL: http://external-apps.qut.edu.au/business/documents/discussionPapers/2009/DiscussionPaperandWorkingPaperSeries248.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology in its series School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series with number 248.

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Length: 11 pages
Date of creation: 23 Mar 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:qut:dpaper:248

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Keywords: Religion; Work Ethic; Protestantism; Education;

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Cited by:
  1. Johan Fourie & Robert Ross & Russel Viljoen, 2013. "Literacy at South African Mission Stations," Working Papers 06/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  2. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2011. "Cultural Diversity, Geographical Isolation, and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," Department of Economics Working Papers 2011-15, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  3. Murtin, Fabrice & Wacziarg, Romain, 2011. "The Democratic Transition," CEPR Discussion Papers 8599, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Kyriazis, Nicholas & Economou, Emmanouel/Marios/Lazaros, 2012. "Property rights and democratic values in Bronze Age and Archaic Greece," MPRA Paper 42399, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Becker, Sascha O. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2011. "Knocking on Heaven’s Door? Protestantism and Suicide," CEPR Discussion Papers 8448, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Becker, Sascha O. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2008. "Luther and the Girls: Religious Denomination and the Female Education Gap in 19th Century Prussia," IZA Discussion Papers 3837, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Basten, Christoph & Betz, Frank, 2011. "Marx vs. Weber: does religion affect politics and the economy?," Working Paper Series 1393, European Central Bank.
  8. Rubin, Jared, 2011. "Printing and Protestants: reforming the economics of the Reformation," MPRA Paper 31267, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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