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


Sascha O. Becker


University of Warwick; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); Ifo Institute for Economic Research

Ludger Woessmann


Ifo Institute for Economic Research; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research); University of Munich - Ifo Institute for Economic Research

May 2007

CESifo Working Paper Series No. 1987
IZA Discussion Paper No. 2886

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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 63

Keywords: human capital, protestantism, economic history

JEL Classification: N33, Z12, I20

working papers series


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Date posted: May 22, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Becker, Sascha O. and Woessmann, Ludger, Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History (May 2007). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 1987; IZA Discussion Paper No. 2886. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=988031

Contact Information

Sascha O. Becker (Contact Author)
University of Warwick ( email )
Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom
Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom
CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)
Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany
HOME PAGE: http://sobecker.de
Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany
Ifo Institute for Economic Research
Munich
Germany
Ludger Woessmann
Ifo Institute for Economic Research ( email )
Poschingerstr. 5
Munich
Germany
++49 89 9224 1699 (Phone)
++49 89 9224 1460 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.cesifo.de/link/woessmann_l.htm
Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany
CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)
Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany
University of Munich - Ifo Institute for Economic Research
Schackstr. 4
Munich, 80539
Germany
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