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Does It Pay To Pray? Evaluating the Economic Return to Religious Ritual

Author

Listed:
  • Bradley J. Ruffle

    (Ben-Gurion University & Harvard Business School)

  • Richard H. Sosis

    (University of Connecticut)

Abstract

Time-consuming and costly religious rituals pose a puzzle for economists committed to rational choice theories of human behavior. We propose that religious rituals promote in-group trust and cooperation that help to overcome collective-action problems. We test this hypothesis on communal societies for whom mutual cooperation is a matter of survival. We design field experiments to measure the in-group cooperative behavior of members of religious and secular Israeli kibbutzim. Our results show that religious males (the primary practitioners of collective religious ritual in Orthodox Judaism) are more cooperative than religious females, secular males and secular females. Moreover, the frequency with which religious males engage in collective religious rituals predicts well their degree of cooperative behavior. We use our results to understand differences in the return to religious observance in capitalist and developing economies.

Suggested Citation

  • Bradley J. Ruffle & Richard H. Sosis, 2003. "Does It Pay To Pray? Evaluating the Economic Return to Religious Ritual," Experimental 0309002, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpex:0309002
    Note: Type of Document - Microsoft Word; prepared on IBM PC ; to print on HP; pages: 345,395,4323247 ; figures: included. We never published this piece and now we would like to reduce our mailing and xerox cost by posting it.
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    File URL: https://econwpa.ub.uni-muenchen.de/econ-wp/exp/papers/0309/0309002.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Nash, John, 1953. "Two-Person Cooperative Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 21(1), pages 128-140, April.
    2. Bradley Ruffle & Richard Sosis, 2003. "Religious ritual and cooperation: Testing for a relationship on israeli religious and secular kibbutzim," Artefactual Field Experiments 00103, The Field Experiments Website.
    3. Jean Ensminger, 1997. "Transaction Costs and Islam: Explaining Conversion in Africa," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 153(1), pages 1-4, March.
    4. Eli Berman, 2000. "Sect, Subsidy, and Sacrifice: An Economist's View of Ultra-Orthodox Jews," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 905-953.
    5. Eli Berman, 2003. "Hamas, Taliban and the Jewish Underground: An Economist's View of Radical Religious Militias," NBER Working Papers 10004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Ruffle, Bradley J. & Sosis, Richard, 2006. "Cooperation and the in-group-out-group bias: A field test on Israeli kibbutz members and city residents," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 147-163, June.
    7. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Hugh-Jones, David & Reinstein, David, 2012. "Anonymous rituals," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 478-489.
    2. Etang, Alvin & Fielding, David & Knowles, Stephen, 2012. "Giving to Africa and perceptions of poverty," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 819-832.
    3. Berggren, Niclas & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2011. "Is the importance of religion in daily life related to social trust? Cross-country and cross-state comparisons," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 459-480.
    4. Anja Klaubert, 2009. "Being religious - A Question of Incentives?," Working Paper Series in Economics 118, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
    5. Sanda Dragos Constantin & Smarandoiu (Sanda) Luana Alexandra, 2015. "The Influence Of Religion To Economic Development. A Critical Perspective Of Recent Qualitative And Quanitative Studies," Annals - Economy Series, Constantin Brancusi University, Faculty of Economics, vol. 3, pages 151-157, June.
    6. Jeffrey Milyo & Jennifer M. Mellor & Lisa Anderson, 2005. "Did the Devil Make Them Do It? The Effects of Religion and Religiosity in Public Goods and Trust Games," Working Papers 0512, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    7. Lisa R. Anderson & Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2005. "Did the Devil Make Them Do It? The Effects of Religion in Public Goods and Trust Games," Working Papers 20, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    economics of religion; experimental economics; religious ritual; cooperation; signaling; field experiment; kibbutz;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • P32 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Collectives; Communes; Agricultural Institutions

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