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The Long-Term Effects of Protestant Activities in China

  • Yuyu Chen
  • Hui Wang
  • Se Yan

Does culture, and in particular religion, exert an independent causal effect on long-term economic growth, or do culture and religion merely reflect the latter? We explore this issue by studying the case of Protestantism in China during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Combining county-level data on Protestant presence in 1920 and socioeconomic indicators in 2000, we find that the spread of Protestantism has generated significant positive effects in long-term economic growth, educational development, and health care outcomes. To better understand whether the relationship is causal, we exploit the fact that missionaries purposefully undertook disaster relief work to gain the trust of the local people. Thus, we use the frequency of historical disasters as an instrument for Protestant distribution. Our IV results confirm and enhance our OLS results. When we further investigate the transmission channels over the long historical period between 1920 and 2000, we find that although improvements in education and health care outcomes account for a sizable portion of the total effects of missionaries' past activities on today's economic outcomes, Protestant activities may have also contributed to long-term economic growth through other channels, such as through transformed social values. If so, then a significant amount of China's growth since 1978 is the result not just of sudden institutional changes but of human capital and social values acquired over a longer historical period.

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File URL: http://cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/ceh/the-long-term-effects-of-protestant-activities-in-china/
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Paper provided by Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEH Discussion Papers with number 25.

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Date of creation: Feb 2014
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Handle: RePEc:auu:hpaper:025
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  1. Nunn, Nathan, 2007. "The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," MPRA Paper 4134, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596, May.
  3. Brandt, Loren & Ma, Debin & Rawski, Thomas, 2013. "From Divergence to Convergence: Re-evaluating the History Behind China’s Economic Boom," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 117, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  4. Benito Arruñada, 2010. "Protestants and Catholics: Similar Work Ethic, Different Social Ethic," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(547), pages 890-918, 09.
  5. Rene M. Stulz & Rohan Williamson, 2001. "Culture, Openness, and Finance," NBER Working Papers 8222, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce I. Sacerdote, 2008. "Education and Religion," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(2), pages 188-215.
  7. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Melissa Dell, 2010. "The Persistent Effects of Peru's Mining Mita," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(6), pages 1863-1903, November.
  9. Jack, William & Lewis, Maureen, 2009. "Health investments and economic growth : macroeconomic evidence and microeconomic foundations," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4877, The World Bank.
  10. Rachel M. McCleary & Robert J. Barro, 2006. "Religion and Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 49-72, Spring.
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