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In-Group Cooperation in a Hostile Environment: An Economic Perspective on Some Aspects of Jewish Life in (Pre-Modern) Diaspora


Hillel Rapoport


Bar-Ilan University - Department of Economics; Stanford University

Avi Weiss


Bar-Ilan University - Department of Economics; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

April 2002

IZA Discussion Paper No. 483

Abstract:     
The demographic history of the Jews in the Middle Ages may be characterized by two main phenomena: i) a sharp drop in the number of Jews until the beginning of the modern period, due mainly to conversions; and, ii) early urbanization. Until now, these features have been analyzed as primarily resulting from persecution and restrictions initiated by the political and religious authorities in the host countries. Economic historians have recently proposed an explanation based on mandatory education in the Jewish tradition (Botticini and Eckstein, 2001). We propose a supplementary explanation based on the incentives to switch affiliation and/or location in a dual environment, where potential gains from in-group cooperation for the Jewish minority may well be offset by losses due to intergroup hostility. Our model generates the two results described above (i.e., a decrease in the total number of Jews, and their concentration in urban areas), without having to rely either on discrimination policies or on investment in human capital, as in previous research.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 28

Keywords: Economic History of the Jews, Ethnic Minorities, Cooperation, Altruism, Hostility

JEL Classification: D64, J15, J61

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Date posted: June 4, 2002  

Suggested Citation

Rapoport, Hillel and Weiss, Avi, In-Group Cooperation in a Hostile Environment: An Economic Perspective on Some Aspects of Jewish Life in (Pre-Modern) Diaspora (April 2002). IZA Discussion Paper No. 483. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=310373

Contact Information

Hillel Rapoport
Bar-Ilan University - Department of Economics ( email )
Ramat-Gan, 52900
Israel
+972 3 535 3180 (Fax)

Stanford University ( email )
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
Avi Weiss (Contact Author)
Bar-Ilan University - Department of Economics ( email )
Ramat-Gan, 52900
Israel
+972 3 531 8934 (Phone)
+972 3 535 3180 (Fax)

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany
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