Religious Participation versus Shopping: What Makes People Happier?
In this paper, we first explore how an exogenous increase in the opportunity cost of religious participation affects an individual's religious participation and reported happiness, using data from the General Social Survey. The exogenous shift in the cost of religious participation is a result of the repeal of so-called blue laws that restrict retail activity on Sundays. We find that repealing blue laws causes a significant decline in the religious participation of women and in their happiness. For men, we do not observe any effect on happiness, while the estimate of the effect on church attendance is similar in magnitude to that for women but is imprecise. We also use repeal as an instrumental variable for church attendance and provide direct evidence that church attendance has a significant positive effect on happiness.
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