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Losing my religion: The effects of religious scandals on religious participation and charitable giving

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  • Bottan, Nicolas L.
  • Perez-Truglia, Ricardo

Abstract

We study how the U.S. Catholic clergy abuse scandals affected religious participation, religious beliefs, and pro-social behavior. To estimate the causal effects of the scandals on various outcomes, we conduct an event-study analysis that exploits the fine distribution of the scandals over space and time. First, a scandal causes a significant and long-lasting decline in religious participation in the zip code where it occurs. Second, the decline in religious participation does not generate a statistically significant decline in religious beliefs, pro-social beliefs, and some commonly used measures of pro-social behavior. This evidence is consistent with the view that changes in religious participation during adulthood may have limited or no effect on deep beliefs and values. Third, the scandals cause a long-lasting decline in charitable contributions. Indeed, the decline in charitable giving is an order of magnitude larger than the direct costs of the scandals to the Catholic churches (e.g., lawsuits). If we assume that the scandals affect charitable giving only through the decline in religious participation, our estimates would suggest that the strong cross-sectional correlation between religious participation and charitable giving has the presumed direction of causality.

Suggested Citation

  • Bottan, Nicolas L. & Perez-Truglia, Ricardo, 2015. "Losing my religion: The effects of religious scandals on religious participation and charitable giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 106-119.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:129:y:2015:i:c:p:106-119
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2015.07.008
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel M. Hungerman & Kevin J. Rinz & Jay Frymark, 2017. "Beyond the Classroom: The Implications of School Vouchers for Church Finances," NBER Working Papers 23159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Daniel M. Hungerman & Kevin Rinz & Tim Weninger & Chungeun Yoon, 2018. "Political Campaigns and Church Contributions," NBER Working Papers 24374, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gharad T. Bryan & James J. Choi & Dean Karlan, 2018. "Randomizing Religion: The Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 24278, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Paul Missios & Ida Ferrara, 2015. "Trust, Ability-to-Pay, and Charitable Giving," Working Papers 061, Ryerson University, Department of Economics.
    5. Bittschi, Benjamin & Borgloh, Sarah & Wigger, Berthold U., 2016. "Philanthropy in a secular society," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-021, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    6. Tommaso Giommoni, 2017. "Exposition to Corruption and Political Participation: Evidence from Italian Municipalities," CESifo Working Paper Series 6645, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Religion; Beliefs; Pro-social behavior; Charitable giving;

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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