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Conversionary Protestants do not cause democracy


  • Nikolova, Elena
  • Polansky, Jakub


In "The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy", Robert D. Woodberry (2012) claims that the emergence of stable democracies around the world was influenced by conversionary Protestantism. While Woodberry's historical analysis is exhaustive, the accompanying empirical evidence suffers from severe inconsistencies. We replicate Woodberry's analysis using 26 alternative democracy measures and extend the time period over which the democracy measures are averaged. These two simple modifications lead to the breakdown of Woodberry's results. We find no significant relationship between Protestant missions and the development of democracy, which raises concerns about the robustness and broader applicability of Woodberry's findings. We discuss some alternative explanations for Woodberry's results which we hope can inform future research on this topic.

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  • Nikolova, Elena & Polansky, Jakub, 2020. "Conversionary Protestants do not cause democracy," GLO Discussion Paper Series 480, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:480

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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.
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    More about this item


    religion; democracy; economic history; political institutions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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