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Knocking on Heaven's Door? Protestantism and Suicide

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  • Becker, Sascha O.

    () (University of Warwick)

  • Woessmann, Ludger

    () (Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Abstract

We model the effect of Protestant vs. Catholic denomination in an economic theory of suicide, accounting for differences in religious-community integration, views about man's impact on God's grace, and the possibility of confessing sins. We test the theory using a unique micro-regional dataset of 452 counties in 19th-century Prussia, when religiousness was still pervasive. Our instrumental-variable model exploits the concentric dispersion of Protestantism around Wittenberg to circumvent selectivity bias. Protestantism had a substantial positive effect on suicide in 1816-21 and 1869-71. We address issues of bias from mental illness, misreporting, weather conditions, within-county heterogeneity, religious concentration, and gender composition.

Suggested Citation

  • Becker, Sascha O. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2011. "Knocking on Heaven's Door? Protestantism and Suicide," IZA Discussion Papers 5773, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5773
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
    2. Berman, Eli & Laitin, David D., 2008. "Religion, terrorism and public goods: Testing the club model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1942-1967, October.
    3. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-1831, November.
    4. Mary C. Daly & Daniel J. Wilson, 2009. "Happiness, Unhappiness, and Suicide: An Empirical Assessment," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 539-549, 04-05.
    5. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2006. "Does Culture Affect Economic Outcomes?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 23-48, Spring.
    6. Efraim Benmelech & Claude Berrebi, 2007. "Human Capital and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 223-238, Summer.
    7. Alan B. Krueger & Jitka Maleckova, 2003. "Education, Poverty and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 119-144, Fall.
    8. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Karen E. Norberg, 2001. "Explaining the Rise in Youth Suicide," NBER Chapters,in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 219-270 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Soss, Neal M, 1974. "An Economic Theory of Suicide," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 83-98, Jan.-Feb..
    10. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
    11. Christoph A. Schaltegger & Benno Torgler, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History: A Comment on Becker and Woessmann," School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series 248, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
    12. Daly, Mary C. & Oswald, Andrew J. & Wilson, Daniel & Wu, Stephen, 2011. "Dark contrasts: The paradox of high rates of suicide in happy places," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 435-442.
    13. Wei-Chiao Huang, 1996. "Religion, culture, economic and sociological correlates of suicide rates: a cross-national analysis," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(12), pages 779-782.
    14. Dave E. Marcotte, 2003. "The Economics of Suicide, Revisited," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 628-643, January.
    15. John Helliwell, 2007. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 81(3), pages 455-496, May.
    16. Rosenthal, Robert W., 1993. "Suicide attempts and signalling games," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 25-33, July.
    17. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Benno Torgler & Christoph A Schaltegger, 2012. "Suicide and Religion: New Evidence on the Differences Between Protestantism and Catholicism," School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series 288, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
    2. Sascha O. Becker & Francesco Cinnirella & Erik Hornung & Ludger Woessmann, 2014. "iPEHD--The ifo Prussian Economic History Database," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(2), pages 57-66, June.
    3. Christian Breuer, 2015. "Unemployment and Suicide Mortality: Evidence from Regional Panel Data in Europe," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(8), pages 936-950, August.
    4. Janine Höhener & Christoph A. Schaltegger, 2012. "Religionsökonomie: eine Übersicht," CREMA Working Paper Series 2012-08, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    5. Yun Jeong Choi & Hyungna Oh, 2016. "Does Media Coverage of a Celebrity Suicide Trigger Copycat Suicides?: Evidence from Korean Cases," Journal of Media Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(2), pages 92-105, April.
    6. Ludger Wößmann, 2010. "Die Bedeutung von Religion für die Bildung: Eine wirtschaftshistorische Forschungsagenda anhand preußischer Kreisdaten, Teil 1," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 63(23), pages 25-32, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    religion; suicide; Prussian economic history;

    JEL classification:

    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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