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Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History

Sascha Becker and Ludger Woessmann

No 2886, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

Abstract: Max Weber attributed the higher economic prosperity of Protestant regions to a Protestant work ethic. We provide an alternative theory, where Protestant economies prospered because instruction in reading the Bible generated the human capital crucial to economic prosperity. County-level data from late 19th-century Prussia reveal that Protestantism was indeed associated not only with higher economic prosperity, but also with better education. We find that Protestants’ higher literacy can account for the whole gap in economic prosperity. Results hold when we exploit the initial concentric dispersion of the Reformation to use distance to Wittenberg as an instrument for Protestantism.

Keywords: human capital; Protestantism; economic history (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I20 N33 Z12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 63 pages
Date: 2007-06
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (55)

Published - published in: Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2009, 124(2), 531-596

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Journal Article: Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History (2009) Downloads
Working Paper: Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History (2009)
Working Paper: Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History (2007) Downloads
Working Paper: Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History (2007) Downloads
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