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Devotion and Development: Religiosity, Education, and Economic Progress in 19th-Century France

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  • Mara P. Squicciarini

Abstract

This paper uses a historical setting to study when religion can be a barrier to the diffusion of knowledge and economic development, and through which mechanism. I focus on 19th-century Catholicism and analyze a crucial phase of modern economic growth, the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914) in France. In this period, technology became skill-intensive, leading to the introduction of technical education in primary schools. At the same time, the Catholic Church was promoting a particularly antiscientific program and opposed the adoption of a technical curriculum. Using data collected from primary and secondary sources, I exploit preexisting variation in the intensity of Catholicism (i.e., religiosity) among French districts and cantons. I show that, despite a stable spatial distribution of religiosity over time, more religious locations had lower economic development only during the Second Industrial Revolution, but not before. Schooling appears to be the key mechanism: more religious areas saw a slower introduction of the technical curriculum and instead a push for religious education. Religious education, in turn, was negatively associated with industrial development about 10 to15 years later, when school-aged children entered the labor market, and this negative relationship was more pronounced in skill-intensive industrial sectors.

Suggested Citation

  • Mara P. Squicciarini, 2019. "Devotion and Development: Religiosity, Education, and Economic Progress in 19th-Century France," CESifo Working Paper Series 7768, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_7768
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    human capital; religiosity; industrialization;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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