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Why Churches Need Free-riders: Religious Capital Formation and Religious Group Survival

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  • Michael McBride

    () (Department of Economics, University of California-Irvine)

Abstract

According to existing theory, religion thrives when groups overcome the free-rider problem in the production of religious goods. This paper explains, however, that allowing some free-riding is necessary in a dynamic setting. If an individual only contributes when she has high religious capital, and if capital only forms after exposure to the religious good, then a church must allow her to temporarily free-ride in order to turn her into a future contributor. Free-riders comprise a risky but necessary investment by the church. Strict churches screen out riskier investments yet still allow some free-riding. This explanation yields predictions consistent with the empirical evidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael McBride, 2007. "Why Churches Need Free-riders: Religious Capital Formation and Religious Group Survival," Working Papers 060722, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:irv:wpaper:060722
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Simon Fan, C., 2008. "Religious participation and children's education: A social capital approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 303-317, February.
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    3. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
    4. Tomer, John F., 2001. "Addictions are not rational: a socio-economic model of addictive behavior," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 243-261, May.
    5. Marc von der Ruhr & Joseph P. Daniels, 2012. "Examining megachurch growth: free riding, fit, and faith," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 39(5), pages 357-372, April.
    6. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, pages 675-700.
    7. Iannaccone, Laurence R, 1992. "Sacrifice and Stigma: Reducing Free-Riding in Cults, Communes, and Other Collectives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 271-291, April.
    8. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Corrigenda [Introduction to the Economics of Religion]," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 1941-1941, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Becchetti, 2010. "The Money–Happiness Relationship in Transition Countries: Evidence from Albania," Transition Studies Review, Springer;Central Eastern European University Network (CEEUN), pages 39-62.
    2. Binzel, Christine & Carvalho, Jean-Paul, 2013. "Education, Social Mobility and Religious Movements: A Theory of the Islamic Revival in Egypt," IZA Discussion Papers 7259, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Sriya Iyer, 2016. "The New Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 395-441.
    4. Carvalho, Jean-Paul & Koyama, Mark, 2016. "Jewish emancipation and schism: Economic development and religious change," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 562-584.
    5. Mark Koyama & Jean-Paul Carvalho, "undated". "Development and Religious Polarization: The Emergence of Reform and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism," Discussion Papers 11/11, Department of Economics, University of York.
    6. Daniel M. Hungerman, 2014. "Do Religious Proscriptions Matter?: Evidence from a Theory-Based Test," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(4), pages 1053-1093.
    7. Friedman, Daniel. & Fan, Jijian. & Jonathan Gair & Sriya Iyer & Bartosz Redlicki & Chander Velu, 2016. "How Fundamentalism Takes Root: A Simulation Study," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1681, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    8. Leonardo Becchetti, 2010. "The Money–Happiness Relationship in Transition Countries: Evidence from Albania," Transition Studies Review, Springer;Central Eastern European University Network (CEEUN), pages 39-62.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Religion; Free-riding; Religious capital;

    JEL classification:

    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship

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