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Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History: A Comment on Becker and Woessmann

Author

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  • Christoph A. Schaltegger
  • Benno Torgler

Abstract

This comment makes a contribution to Becker and Woessmann’s paper on a human capital theory of Protestant economic history eventually challenging the famous thesis by Max Weber who attributed economic success to a specific Protestant work ethic (Quarterly Journal of Economics 124 (2) (2009) forthcoming). The authors argue for a human capital approach: higher literacy among Protestants of the 19th century (and not a Protestant work ethic) contributed to higher economic prosperity at that point in history. However, the paper leaves the question open as to whether a Protestant specific work ethic existed or exists at all. Are there observable denomination-based differences in work ethic or is Protestantism only a veil hiding the underlying role of education? We use recent data to explore the role of Protestantism on work ethic. The results indicate that today’s work ethic in fact is influenced by denomination-based religiosity and also education.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:qut:dpaper:248
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    File URL: http://external-apps.qut.edu.au/business/documents/discussionPapers/2009/DiscussionPaperandWorkingPaperSeries248.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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. Timo Boppart & Josef Falkinger & Volker Grossmann & Ulrich Woitek & Gabriela Wüthrich, 2008. "Qualifying Religion: The Role of Plural Identities for Educational Production," CESifo Working Paper Series 2283, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. & Robert F. Hebert & Robert D. Tollison, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 646-671, June.
    4. Guido Tabellini, 2010. "Culture and Institutions: Economic Development in the Regions of Europe," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 677-716, June.
    5. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
    6. 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.
    7. Rachel M. McCleary & Robert J. Barro, 2006. "Religion and Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 49-72, Spring.
    8. Bernstein, Paul, 1988. "The work ethic: Economics, not religion," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 8-11.
    9. Frey, Bruno S., 1990. "Institutions matter: The comparative analysis of institutions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(2-3), pages 443-449, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2007. "Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Diffusion and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," CEPR Discussion Papers 6444, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Fabrice Murtin & Romain Wacziarg, 2014. "The democratic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 141-181, June.
    3. Johan Fourie & Robert Ross & Russel Viljoen, 2012. "Literacy at South African Mission Stations," Working Papers 284, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    4. Becker, Sascha & Woessmann, Ludger, 2008. "Luther and the Girls: Religious Denomination and the Female Education Gap in 19th Century Prussia," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2008-20, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
    5. Becker, Sascha O. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2011. "Knocking on Heaven’s Door? Protestantism and Suicide," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 966, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    6. Basten, Christoph & Betz, Frank, 2011. "Marx vs. Weber: does religion affect politics and the economy?," Working Paper Series 1393, European Central Bank.
    7. Jared Rubin, 2014. "Printing and Protestants: An Empirical Test of the Role of Printing in the Reformation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(2), pages 270-286, May.
    8. Kyriazis, Nicholas & Economou, Emmanouel/Marios/Lazaros, 2012. "Property rights and democratic values in Bronze Age and Archaic Greece," MPRA Paper 42399, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Religion; Work Ethic; Protestantism; Education;

    JEL classification:

    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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