Religious Participation and Pro-Social Behavior: An Event-Study Analysis of the U.S. Catholic Clergy Scandals
Nicolas L. Bottan
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics
September 1, 2014
Although several studies document a strong correlation between religious participation and pro-social behavior, there is no consensus about the direction of causality. We provide novel evidence by examining variations in religious participation induced by the Catholic-clergy abuse scandals in the United States. To estimate the causal effects of the scandals on various outcomes, we conduct an event-study analysis that exploits the fine distribution of the scandals over space and time. First, we show that a scandal causes a significant and long-lasting decline in religious participation in the location where it occurs. Second, we test whether the decline in religious participation translates into a decline in pro-social beliefs and behavior. On the one hand, we find a long-lasting decline in charitable contributions. Indeed, this drop in charitable giving is an order of magnitude larger than the direct costs of the scandals to the Catholic churches (e.g., lawsuits). On the other hand, the scandals do not have a significant effect on religious beliefs, pro-social beliefs, and other forms of pro-social behavior.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: religion, beliefs, pro-social behavior, charitable giving
JEL Classification: D64, H41, L31, Z1, Z12
Date posted: September 6, 2011 ; Last revised: November 11, 2014
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