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Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History

  • Sascha O. Becker
  • Ludger Woessmann

Max Weber attributed the higher economic prosperity of Protestant regions to a Protestant work ethic. We provide an alternative theory, where Protestant economies prospered because instruction in reading the Bible generated the human capital crucial to economic prosperity. County-level data from late 19thcentury Prussia reveal that Protestantism was indeed associated not only with higher economic prosperity, but also with better education. We find that Protestants’ higher literacy can account for the whole gap in economic prosperity. Results hold when we exploit the initial concentric dispersion of the Reformation to use distance to Wittenberg as an instrument for Protestantism.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2007/wp-cesifo-2007-05/cesifo1_wp1987.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1987.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1987
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  16. Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. & Robert F. Hebert & Robert D. Tollison, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 646-671, June.
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  18. Peter H. Lindert, 2003. "Voice and Growth: Was Churchill Right?," NBER Working Papers 9749, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Ronald Lee & Patrick Galloway & Eugene Hammel, 1994. "Fertility Decline in Prussia: Estimating Influences on Supply, Demand, and Degree of Control," Demography, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 347-373, May.
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