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Does It Pay To Pray? Evaluating the Economic Return to Religious Ritual

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Author Info

  • Bradley J. Ruffle

    (Ben-Gurion University & Harvard Business School)

  • Richard H. Sosis

    (University of Connecticut)

Abstract

Time-consuming and costly religious rituals pose a puzzle for economists committed to rational choice theories of human behavior. We propose that religious rituals promote in-group trust and cooperation that help to overcome collective-action problems. We test this hypothesis on communal societies for whom mutual cooperation is a matter of survival. We design field experiments to measure the in-group cooperative behavior of members of religious and secular Israeli kibbutzim. Our results show that religious males (the primary practitioners of collective religious ritual in Orthodox Judaism) are more cooperative than religious females, secular males and secular females. Moreover, the frequency with which religious males engage in collective religious rituals predicts well their degree of cooperative behavior. We use our results to understand differences in the return to religious observance in capitalist and developing economies.

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File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/exp/papers/0309/0309002.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Experimental with number 0309002.

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Length: 345 pages
Date of creation: 18 Sep 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpex:0309002

Note: Type of Document - Microsoft Word; prepared on IBM PC ; to print on HP; pages: 345,395,4323247 ; figures: included. We never published this piece and now we would like to reduce our mailing and xerox cost by posting it.
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Web page: http://128.118.178.162

Related research

Keywords: economics of religion; experimental economics; religious ritual; cooperation; signaling; field experiment; kibbutz;

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References

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  1. Nash, John, 1953. "Two-Person Cooperative Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 21(1), pages 128-140, April.
  2. Ruffle, Bradley J. & Sosis, Richard, 2006. "Cooperation and the in-group-out-group bias: A field test on Israeli kibbutz members and city residents," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 147-163, June.
  3. Eli Berman, 2003. "Hamas, Taliban and the Jewish Underground: An Economist's View of Radical Religious Militias," NBER Working Papers 10004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Eli Berman, 1998. "Sect, Subsidy, and Sacrifice: An Economist's View of Ultra-Orthodox Jews," NBER Working Papers 6715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
  6. Richard Sosis & Bradley Ruffle, 2003. "Religious ritual and cooperation: Testing for a relationship on israeli religious and secular kibbutzim," Artefactual Field Experiments 00103, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Jean Ensminger, 1997. "Transaction Costs and Islam: Explaining Conversion in Africa," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 153(1), pages 4-, March.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Anja Klaubert, 2009. "Being religious - A Question of Incentives?," Working Paper Series in Economics 118, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
  2. Alvin Etang Ndip & David Fielding & Stephen Knowles, 2010. "Giving to Africa and Perceptions of Poverty," Working Papers 1008, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2010.
  3. Lisa R. Anderson & Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2005. "Did the Devil Make Them Do It? The Effects of Religion in Public Goods and Trust Games," Working Papers 20, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  4. Hugh-Jones, David & Reinstein, David, 2012. "Anonymous rituals," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 478-489.
  5. Jeffrey Milyo & Jennifer M. Mellor & Lisa Anderson, 2005. "Did the Devil Make Them Do It? The Effects of Religion and Religiosity in Public Goods and Trust Games," Working Papers 0512, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  6. Berggren, Niclas & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2009. "Is the Importance of Religion in Daily Life Related to Social Trust? Cross-Country and Cross-State Comparisons," Ratio Working Papers 142, The Ratio Institute.

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