Why churches need free-riders: Religious capital formation and religious group survival
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.
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Volume (Year): 58 (2015)
Issue (Month): C ()
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References listed on IDEAS
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