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Why churches need free-riders: Religious capital formation and religious group survival

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  • McBride, Michael

Abstract

Prevailing theory claims that churches thrive when they overcome the free-rider problem. However, this paper argues that religious organizations need free-riders in a dynamic setting. If individuals’ contributions to congregations increase as their exposure to religion increases, then allowing potential members to free-ride temporarily may increase future membership and contribution levels. Free-riders thus comprise a risky but necessary investment by the church. Strict churches screen out riskier investments yet still allow some free-riding, while ultra-strict churches screen out all but members’ children. This new theory yields predictions consistent with stylized empirical facts.

Suggested Citation

  • McBride, Michael, 2015. "Why churches need free-riders: Religious capital formation and religious group survival," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 77-87.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:58:y:2015:i:c:p:77-87
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2015.07.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Becchetti, 2010. "The Money–Happiness Relationship in Transition Countries: Evidence from Albania," Transition Studies Review, Springer;Central Eastern European University Network (CEEUN), vol. 17(1), pages 39-62, May.
    2. Binzel, Christine & Carvalho, Jean-Paul, 2013. "Education, Social Mobility and Religious Movements: A Theory of the Islamic Revival in Egypt," IZA Discussion Papers 7259, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Sriya Iyer, 2016. "The New Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(2), pages 395-441, June.
    4. Carvalho, Jean-Paul & Koyama, Mark, 2016. "Jewish emancipation and schism: Economic development and religious change," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 562-584.
    5. repec:rnp:ecopol:ep1808 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Mark Koyama & Jean-Paul Carvalho, "undated". "Development and Religious Polarization: The Emergence of Reform and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism," Discussion Papers 11/11, Department of Economics, University of York.
    7. Daniel M. Hungerman, 2014. "Do Religious Proscriptions Matter?: Evidence from a Theory-Based Test," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(4), pages 1053-1093.
    8. Friedman, Daniel. & Fan, Jijian. & Jonathan Gair & Sriya Iyer & Bartosz Redlicki & Chander Velu, 2016. "How Fundamentalism Takes Root: A Simulation Study," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1681, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Religion; Free-riding; Religious capital;

    JEL classification:

    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship

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