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Exporting Christianity: Governance and Doctrine in the Globalization of US Denominations

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  • Gordon H. Hanson
  • Chong Xiang

Abstract

In this paper we build a model of market competition among religious denominations, using a framework that involves incomplete contracts and the production of club goods. We treat denominations akin to multinational enterprises, which decide which countries to enter based on local market conditions and their own "productivity." The model yields predictions for how a denomination's religious doctrine and governance structure affect its ability to attract adherents. We test these predictions using data on the foreign operations of US Protestant denominations in 2005 from the World Christian Database. Consistent with the model, we find that (1) denominations with stricter religious doctrine attract more adherents in countries in which the risk of natural disaster or disease outbreak is greater and in which government provision of health services is weaker, and (2) denominations with a decentralized governance structure attract more adherents in countries in which the productivity of pastor effort is higher. These findings shed light on factors determining the composition of religion within countries, helping account for the rise of new Protestant denominations in recent decades.

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  • Gordon H. Hanson & Chong Xiang, 2011. "Exporting Christianity: Governance and Doctrine in the Globalization of US Denominations," NBER Working Papers 16964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16964
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    2. Becker, Sascha O. & Rubin, Jared & Woessmann, Ludger, 2020. "Religion in Economic History : A Survey," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1273, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    3. Sriya Iyer, 2016. "The New Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(2), pages 395-441, June.
    4. Michael W. Walrath, 2016. "Entry Models Applied to Churches: Could Protestants use a Catholic Bishop to Solve Excess Entry?," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(3), pages 557-588, September.
    5. Seror, Avner, 2018. "A theory on the evolution of religious norms and economic prohibition," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 416-427.

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    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods

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