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The Effect of Education on Religion: Evidence from Compulsory Schooling Laws

  • Daniel M. Hungerman

For over a century, social scientists have debated how educational attainment impacts religious belief. In this paper, I use Canadian compulsory schooling laws to identify the relationship between completed schooling and later religiosity. I find that higher levels of education lead to lower levels of religious participation later in life. An additional year of education leads to a 4-percentage-point decline in the likelihood that an individual identifies with any religious tradition; the estimates suggest that increases in schooling can explain most of the large rise in non-affiliation in Canada in recent decades.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16973.

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Date of creation: Apr 2011
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Publication status: published as “The Effect of Education on Religion: Evidence from Compulsory Schooling Laws,” forthcoming at the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16973
Note: CH ED PE
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  1. Alan Gerber & Jonathan Gruber & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2008. "Does Church Attendance Cause People to Vote? Using Blue Laws' Repeal to Estimate the Effect of Religiosity on Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 14303, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Bruce Sacerdote & Edward L. Glaeser, 2001. "Education and Religion," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1913, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. John Sawkins & Paul Seaman & Hector Williams, 1997. "Church attendance in Great Britain: An ordered logit approach," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(2), pages 125-134.
  4. Becker, Sascha O. & Wößmann, Ludger, 2007. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," Discussion Papers in Economics 1366, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne E. Page, 2006. "The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 729-760, October.
  6. Damon Clark & Heather Royer, 2010. "The Effect of Education on Adult Health and Mortality: Evidence from Britain," NBER Working Papers 16013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Thomas S. Dee, 2003. "Are There Civic Returns to Education?," NBER Working Papers 9588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Erik Meyersson, 2014. "Islamic Rule and the Empowerment of the Poor and Pious," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(1), pages 229-269, 01.
  9. Pablo BraÒas-Garza & Shoshana Neuman, 2004. "Analyzing Religiosity within an Economic Framework: The Case of Spanish Catholics," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 5-22, 03.
  10. Silles, Mary A., 2009. "The causal effect of education on health: Evidence from the United Kingdom," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 122-128, February.
  11. Sarah Brown & Karl Taylor, 2003. "Religion and Education: Evidence from the National Child Development Study," Discussion Papers in Economics 03/16, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  12. Lara B. Aknin & Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh & Elizabeth W. Dunn & John F. Helliwell & Robert Biswas-Diener & Imelda Kemeza & Paul Nyende & Claire E. Ashton-James & Michael I. Norton, 2010. "Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal," NBER Working Papers 16415, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. 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 271-91, April.
  14. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
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