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Religion and the Family: The Case of the Amish

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  • Choy, James

    (Department of Economics, University of Warwick)

Abstract

I construct a model of religion as an institution that provides community enforcement of contracts within families. Family altruism implies that family members cannot commit to reporting broken contracts to the community, so the community must monitor contract performance as well as inflicting punishment. The community has less information than family members, and so community monitoring is inefficient. I provide evidence from a study of Amish institutions, including qualitative evidence from sociological accounts and quantitative evidence from a novel dataset covering nearly the entire Amish population of Holmes county, Ohio. I find that 1) Amish households are not unitary, 2) the Amish community helps to support families by inflicting punishments on wayward family members, 3) without the community Amish people have difficulty committing to punishing family members, and 4) Amish community membership strengthens family ties, while otherwise similar religious communities in which there is less need for exchange between family members have rules that weaken family ties. My model has implications for understanding selection into religious practice and the persistence of culture.

Suggested Citation

  • Choy, James, 2016. "Religion and the Family: The Case of the Amish," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1114, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:1114
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    File URL: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/2016/twerp_1114_choy.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ran Abramitzky, 2008. "The Limits of Equality: Insights from the Israeli Kibbutz," Discussion Papers 07-048, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    2. Alberto Bisin & Thierry Verdier, 2000. ""Beyond the Melting Pot": Cultural Transmission, Marriage, and the Evolution of Ethnic and Religious Traits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 955-988.
    3. Ran Abramitzky, 2008. "The Limits of Equality: Insights from the Israeli Kibbutz," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 1111-1159.
    4. Daniel L. Chen, 2010. "Club Goods and Group Identity: Evidence from Islamic Resurgence during the Indonesian Financial Crisis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(2), pages 300-354, April.
    5. Ghosh, Suman & Karaivanov, Alexander, 2007. "Can a raise in your wage make you worse off? A public goods perspective," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 551-571, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cultural Economics; Non-market Production; Public Goods; Religion;

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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