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The Church vs the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?

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  • Jonathan Gruber
  • Daniel M. Hungerman

Abstract

Recently economists have begun to consider the causes and consequences of religious participation. An unanswered question in this literature is the effect upon individuals of changes in the opportunity cost of religious participation. In this paper we identify a policy-driven change in the opportunity cost of religious participation based on state laws that prohibit retail activity on Sunday, known as %u201Cblue laws.%u201D Many states have repealed these laws in recent years, raising the opportunity cost of religious participation. We construct a model which predicts, under fairly general conditions, that allowing retail activity on Sundays will lower attendance levels but may increase or decrease religious donations. We then use a variety of datasets to show that when a state repeals its blue laws religious attendance falls, and that church donations and spending fall as well. These results do not seem to be driven by declines in religiosity prior to the law change, nor do we see comparable declines in membership or giving to nonreligious organizations after a state repeals its laws. We then assess the effects of changes in these laws on drinking and drug use behavior in the NLSY. We find that repealing blue laws leads to an increase in drinking and drug use, and that this increase is found only among the initially religious individuals who were affected by the blue laws. The effect is economically significant; for example, the gap in heavy drinking between religious and non religious individuals falls by about half after the laws are repealed.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Gruber & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2006. "The Church vs the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?," NBER Working Papers 12410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12410
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. McCleary, Rachel & Barro, Robert, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth across Countries," Scholarly Articles 3708464, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    2. Robert J. Barro & Rachel M. McCleary, 2005. "Which Countries Have State Religions?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1331-1370.
    3. Gruber Jonathan H, 2005. "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-32, September.
    4. Gruber, Jonathan & Hungerman, Daniel M., 2007. "Faith-based charity and crowd-out during the great depression," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(5-6), pages 1043-1069, June.
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    7. Robert J. Barro & Rachel McCleary, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 9682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mendolia, Silvia & Paloyo, Alfredo R. & Walker, Ian, 2018. "The Effect of Religiosity on Adolescent Risky Behaviors," IZA Discussion Papers 11566, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Elbert Dijkgraaf & Raymond Gradus, 2007. "Explaining Sunday Shop Policies," De Economist, Springer, vol. 155(2), pages 207-219, June.
    3. Fletcher, Jason & Kumar, Sanjeev, 2014. "Religion and risky health behaviors among U.S. adolescents and adults," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 123-140.
    4. Paul Frijters & Juan D. Barón, 2012. "The Cult of Theoi: Economic Uncertainty and Religion," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 88(s1), pages 116-136, June.
    5. Rajeev Dehejia & Thomas DeLeire & Erzo F. P. Luttmer & Josh Mitchell, 2007. "The Role of Religious and Social Organizations in the Lives of Disadvantaged Youth," NBER Chapters,in: The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth: An Economic Perspective, pages 237-274 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Daniel M. Hungerman, 2011. "Substitution and Stigma: Evidence on Religious Competition from the Catholic Sex-Abuse Scandal," NBER Working Papers 17589, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Gerber, Alan S. & Gruber, Jonathan & Hungerman, Daniel M., 2016. "Does Church Attendance Cause People to Vote? Using Blue Laws’ Repeal to Estimate the Effect of Religiosity on Voter Turnout," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(03), pages 481-500, July.
    8. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2013. "Not the Opium of the People: Income and Secularization in a Panel of Prussian Counties," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 539-544, May.
    9. Becker, Sascha O. & Nagler, Markus & Woessmann, Ludger, 2014. "Education Promoted Secularization," CEPR Discussion Papers 9884, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Makowsky, Michael D., 2011. "Religion, clubs, and emergent social divides," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 74-87.
    11. Spenkuch, Jörg L., 2010. "The Protestant Ethic and Work: Micro Evidence from Contemporary Germany," MPRA Paper 26444, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Nunziata, Luca & Rocco, Lorenzo, 2011. "The Implications of Cultural Background on Labour Market Choices: The Case of Religion and Entrepreneurship," IZA Discussion Papers 6114, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Gharad T. Bryan & James J. Choi & Dean Karlan, 2018. "Randomizing Religion: The Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 24278, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Dara N. Lee, 2011. "The Impact of Repealing Sunday Closing Laws on Educational Attainment," Working Papers 1117, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    15. Dills, Angela K. & Hernández-Julián, Rey, 2014. "Religiosity and state welfare," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 37-51.
    16. Jungtaek Lee & Baris K. Yörük, 2014. "Does Legalization of Sunday Alcohol Sales Increase Crime?," CESifo Working Paper Series 5065, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. Bengtsson, Niklas, 2008. "Do Protestant Aid Organizations Aid Protestants Only?," Working Paper Series 2008:6, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    18. Makowsky, Michael, 2009. "Religious Extremism, Clubs, and Civil Liberties: A Model of Religious Populations," MPRA Paper 14358, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. 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.
    20. Brown, Timothy Tyler, 2009. "Rational praying: The economics of prayer," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 37-44, January.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor

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