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Not the Opium of the People: Income and Secularization in a Panel of Prussian Counties

  • Sascha O. Becker
  • Ludger Woessmann

The interplay between religion and the economy has long occupied social scientists. We construct a unique panel of income and Protestant church attendance using 175 Prussian counties, presented in six waves from 1886 to 1911. The data reveal a marked decline in church attendance coinciding with increasing income. The cross-section also shows a negative association between income and church attendance. The associations disappear in panel analyses, including first-differenced models of the 1886 to 1911 change, panel models with county and time fixed effects, and panel Granger-causality tests. The results cast doubt on causal interpretations of the religion-economy nexus in Prussian secularization.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 103 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 539-44

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:103:y:2013:i:3:p:539-44
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.3.539
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  1. Guiso, Luigi & Sapienza, Paola & Zingales, Luigi, 2003. "People's opium? Religion and economic attitudes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 225-282, January.
  2. 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.
  3. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
  4. Becker, Sascha O. & Cinnirella, Francesco & Hornung, Erik & Woessmann, Ludger, 2012. "iPEHD – The ifo Prussian Economic History Database," CEPR Discussion Papers 9128, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Lipford, Jody W. & Tollison, Robert D., 2003. "Religious participation and income," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 249-260, June.
  6. Becker, Sascha O. & Wößmann, Ludger, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," Munich Reprints in Economics 20255, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  7. Rachel M. McCleary & Robert J. Barro, 2006. "Religion and Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 49-72, Spring.
  8. Jonathan Gruber & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2006. "The Church vs the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?," NBER Working Papers 12410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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