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Sect, Subsidy, and Sacrifice: An Economist's View of Ultra-Orthodox Jews

  • Eli Berman

The Israeli Ultra-Orthodox population doubles each seventeen years. With 60 % of prime aged males attending Yeshiva rather than working, that community is rapidly outgrowing its resources. Why do fathers with families in poverty choose Yeshiva over work? Draft deferments subsidize Yeshiva attendance, yet attendance typically continues long after they are draft exempt. We explain this puzzle with a club good model in which Yeshiva attendance signals commitment to the community. Subsidizing membership in a club with sacrifice as an entry requirement induces increased sacrifice, compounding the distortion and dissipating the subsidy. Policies treating members and potential entrants equally are Pareto improving. The analysis may generalize to other by increasing the stringency of prohibitions and sacrifice.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6715.

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Date of creation: Aug 1998
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Publication status: published as Quarterly Journal of Economics (August 2000). 6715 revised 10/26/00
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6715
Note: LS
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  1. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-50, October.
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