Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself: Community Formation and the Church
Professor; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
Thomas D. Jeitschko
Michigan State University - Department of Economics
Maynooth College - Faculty of Theology
NUI Maynooth - Department of Economics
August 2, 2006
The church has played a central role in establishing and maintaining, as well as undermining, communities throughout history. We explore mechanisms through which it coordinates individual behaviors to achieve improvements in welfare, and reveal ways in which it can fail, causing communities to founder. In our model, inherently religious individuals may become trapped in a secular equilibrium that is strictly dominated by a religious equilibrium. The church, via its teaching, clergy and ministries, reveals the benefits, both in this world and in the world to come, of coordinated behavior and the costs of uncoordinated behavior to induce community members to take individually and socially beneficial actions. External forces, the state and secular society, and internal forces, doctrinal disputes, inconsistencies, and incoherence, reduce a church’s ability to coordinate. Empirical analysis shows that the model’s core features and findings are largely consistent with recent U.S. data on church attendance and tithing.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: Economics of Religion, Spirituality, Community Formation, Coordination Failures
JEL Classification: I19working papers series
Date posted: August 8, 2006 ; Last revised: February 8, 2010
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