Felix Kersting, Iris Wohnsiedler, Nikolaus Wolf, 11 July 2020

Max Weber famously hypothesised that the Protestant work ethic fostered modern economic development. Does religion matter for economic success? This column revisits Weber’s hypothesis in the context of 19th-century Prussia. Protestantism did not matter for savings, literacy rates, or income levels across Prussian counties after 1870. Instead, there are large differences between ethnic groups, likely due to ethnic discrimination. Nationalism must be taken into account to understand Weber’s writings.

Mara Squicciarini, 18 August 2019

Religion has had a complex relationship with technological progress throughout history, but there is scant empirical evidence on how conservative religious values may have affected the spread of new ideas and, by extension, economic development. This column examines the influence of the Catholic Church on technical education in France during the Second Industrial Revolution. It finds that areas with higher ‘religiosity’ had lower levels of industrial and economic development, suggesting that conservative religion can hamper economic development when it prevents primary schools from adopting technical education.

Thomas Andersen, Jeanet Bentzen, Carl-Johan Dalgaard, Paul Sharp, 23 October 2017

Examples of the interaction of religious influence and economic performance have occurred throughout history, most notable Weber’s argument of the ‘Protestant ethic’. This column uses an earlier example, of the Cistercian Catholic Order, to show that religious values did influence productivity and economic performance in England and across Europe. The effect of this historic influence has persisted to today.

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