Culture: Persistence and evolution
Francesco Giavazzi, Ivan Petkov, Fabio Schiantarelli, 16 June 2014
The persistence of cultural attitudes is an important determinant of the success of institutional reforms, and of the impact of immigration on a country’s culture. This column presents evidence from a study of European immigrants to the US. Some cultural traits – such as deep religious values – are highly persistent, whereas others – such as attitudes towards cooperation and redistribution – change more quickly. Many cultural attitudes evolve significantly between the second and fourth generations, and the persistence of different attitudes varies across countries of origin.
Are a person’s values and beliefs persistent, or do they evolve – possibly rather quickly – in response to the economic and institutional environment? This is a central question, for instance, if one is interested in assessing the likelihood of success of reforms that change rules within a country.
Topics: Frontiers of economic research, Institutions and economics, Migration
Tags: attitudes, beliefs, Culture, immigration, religion, US, values
Newspaper readership, civic attitudes, and economic development: Evidence from the history of African media
Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda, 14 May 2014
African regions where Protestant missionaries were active had indigenous newspapers a century before other regions. This column argues, based on new research, that this difference has had lasting effects. Proximity to a mission that had a printing press in 1903 predicts newspaper readership today. Population density and light density (a proxy for economic development) is also higher today in regions nearer to missions that had printing presses. The results suggest that a well-functioning media – not Protestantism per se – was important for development.
Poor governance due to lack of political accountability is often cited as an explanation for the low level of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of political accountability can emerge when voters do not choose their candidates according to their expected performance.
Topics: Development, Economic history, Institutions and economics, Politics and economics
Tags: accountability, Africa, democracy, development, media, religion, technology, voting
Religion matters, in life and death
Sascha O Becker, Ludger Woessmann, 15 January 2012
Does religion affect suicide? This column presents new evidence from 19th century Prussia showing that suicide rates are much higher in Protestant than in Catholic areas, and that this reflects a causal effect of Protestantism. It also suggests that economic modelling can help understand why this is so.
As early as 1897, French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1897) in his classic Le suicide presented aggregate indicators suggesting that Protestantism was a leading correlate of suicide incidence.
Topics: Economic history, Frontiers of economic research, Politics and economics
Tags: religion, suicide
Institutions, religion, and the rise of Europe vis-à-vis the Middle East: A long-run reversal of fortunes
Jared Rubin, 22 December 2011
The economic rise of Europe and its offshoots relative to the rest of the world is of intrinsic interest to those concerned with the mechanisms underlying economic success and stagnation. This column argues that differences in the legitimising relationship between political and religious authorities in Europe and the Middle East have contributed to the economic divergence between the two regions in the last half-millennium.
By almost any available economic measure, the Middle East, China, and India were ahead of Europe one thousand years ago. Their science and technology were more advanced than in Europe, their trade flowed in higher volumes and over longer distances, and they employed more complicated financial instruments to facilitate trade.
Tags: interest restriction, religion
Religion makes people happy, so why is church attendance declining?
Bruno S Frey, Jana Gallus, 2 October 2011
Is religion a ‘crutch for the weak’? This column looks at data on religion and life satisfaction from across the globe and argues that it might just be insurance for the unhappy.
Modern happiness research leaves no doubt that religious people are happier than their contemporaries. And the causality runs from religion to happiness (though it might also be possible that religious people are less interested in material aspects and, therefore, less affluent).
Topics: Frontiers of economic research
Tags: churches, happiness research, life satisfaction, religion, welfare
On the origin of the family
Marco Francesconi, Christian Ghiglino, Motty Perry, 11 February 2010
Why do people form long-lasting marital unions? This column presents new insights on what makes a family stick together. Families dominate more promiscuous pairs, in the sense that they can achieve greater survivorship and enhanced genetic fitness. The column suggests that this might provide an evolutionary explanation for the origin of religion as an institution to protect the family.
Why do humans live in families? The fact that only 3% of avian and mammal species are known to be familial suggests that the emergence of the family cannot be taken for granted, even among humans (Emlen 1995). Divorce is a common feature of modern life and non-traditional family structures are growing more common.
Topics: Frontiers of economic research
Tags: family, fidelity, religion
AIDS prevention: Abstinence vs. risk reduction
Esther Duflo, 20 April 2009
In Africa, where AIDS afflicts 22 million people, most religions promote abstinence and fidelity as the best way to stop the epidemic, especially among adolescents. This column describes two randomised experiments in Kenya showing that a general risk-avoidance message does not change behaviour, whereas a clear message on the relative risks of different sexual partners does.
On his first visit to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated that the distribution of condoms by health authorities won’t resolve the AIDS epidemic in Africa, adding that “on the contrary, it increases the problem.”
Topics: Development, Health economics
Tags: abstinence, Africa, AIDS, condoms, randomised experiment, religion
The opiate of the elites
Andrew Gelman, David Park, Boris Shor, Jeronimo Cortina, 21 April 2008
Barack Obama attracted attention recently by describing small-town Americans who were “bitter” at economic prospects who “cling to guns or religion’’ in frustration. But an opposite view, 'post-materialism', suggests that, as people and societies get richer, their concerns shift from mundane bread-and-butter issues to cultural and spiritual concerns.
Barack Obama attracted attention recently by describing small-town Americans who were “bitter” at economic prospects who “cling to guns or religion’’ in frustration. This statement, made during the height of the Democratic nomination battle, has received a lot of attention, but it represents a common view.
Topics: Politics and economics
Tags: conservative parties, Democrats, religion, Republicans, social class, US, voting
Religion influences people's decision to become an entrepreneur
David B Audretsch, Werner Bönte, Jagannadha Pawan Tamvada , 9 July 2007
By examining whether religion has any impact on decision-making that promotes economic growth, i.e. the decision to become an entrepreneur, the authors of DP6378 aim to shed light on two questions: (1) What are the channels by which religion influences economics and (2) Are the impacts on economic activity the same across all religions?
Although a number of economists have argued that religion plays a fundamental role in shaping economics, only scant attention has recently been given as to how and why religion might act as a determinant of economic activity. It has been suggested that values and attitudes are as much a part of the economy as institutions and policies are.
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Topics: Productivity and Innovation
Tags: caste-system, entrepreneurship, India, religion