IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Diffusing Knowledge While Spreading God'S Message: Protestantism And Economic Prosperity In China, 1840–1920


  • Ying Bai
  • James Kai-sing Kung


We provide an account of how Protestantism promoted economic prosperity in China—a country in which Protestant missionaries penetrated far and wide during 1840–1920, but only a tiny fraction of the population had converted to Christianity. By exploiting the spatial variation in the missionaries’ retreat due to the Boxer Uprising to identify the diffusion of Protestantism, we find that the conversion of an additional communicant per 10,000 people increases the overall urbanization rate by 18.8% when evaluated at the mean. Moreover, 90% of this effect comes from knowledge diffusion activities associated with schools and hospitals erected by the missionaries. (JEL: N35, Z12, O18)

Suggested Citation

  • Ying Bai & James Kai-sing Kung, 2015. "Diffusing Knowledge While Spreading God'S Message: Protestantism And Economic Prosperity In China, 1840–1920," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 669-698, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:13:y:2015:i:4:p:669-698

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Dong, Zhiqiang & Zhang, Yongjing, 2016. "Accumulated social capital, institutional quality, and economic performance: Evidence from China," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 206-219.
    2. Bai, Ying, 2019. "Farewell to confucianism: The modernizing effect of dismantling China's imperial examination system," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(C).
    3. Basten, Christoph & Betz, Frank, 2011. "Marx vs. Weber: does religion affect politics and the economy?," Working Paper Series 1393, European Central Bank.
    4. Henderson, Stuart, 2016. "Religion and development in post-famine Ireland," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2016-01, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    5. Becker, Sascha O. & Pfaff, Steven & Rubin, Jared, 2016. "Causes and consequences of the Protestant Reformation," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1-25.
    6. Jin, Gan, 2018. "Circle of Fortune: The Long Term Impact of Western Customs Institutions in China," Annual Conference 2018 (Freiburg, Breisgau): Digital Economy 181605, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Calvi, Rossella & Mantovanelli, Federico G., 2018. "Long-term effects of access to health care: Medical missions in colonial India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 285-303.
    8. Gan Jin, 2018. "Circle of Fortune: The Long Term Impact of Western Customs Institutions in China," Discussion Paper Series 37, Department of International Economic Policy, University of Freiburg, revised Jul 2018.
    9. Sheremeta, Roman & Smith, Vernon, 2017. "The Impact of the Reformation on the Economic Development of Western Europe," MPRA Paper 87220, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Yang, Yang & Zhang, Cheng & Yan, Yu, 2019. "Does religious faith affect household financial market participation? Evidence from China," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 42-50.
    11. Waldinger, Maria, 2017. "The long-run effects of missionary orders in Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 355-378.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:13:y:2015:i:4:p:669-698. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley Content Delivery). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.