Knocking on Heaven's Door? Protestantism and Suicide

47 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2011  

Sascha O. Becker

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

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Abstract

We model the effect of Protestant vs. Catholic denomination in an economic theory of suicide, accounting for differences in religious-community integration, views about man's impact on God's grace, and the possibility of confessing sins. We test the theory using a unique micro-regional dataset of 452 counties in 19th-century Prussia, when religiousness was still pervasive. Our instrumental-variable model exploits the concentric dispersion of Protestantism around Wittenberg to circumvent selectivity bias. Protestantism had a substantial positive effect on suicide in 1816-21 and 1869-71. We address issues of bias from mental illness, misreporting, weather conditions, within-county heterogeneity, religious concentration, and gender composition.

Keywords: religion, suicide, Prussian economic history

JEL Classification: Z12, N33

Suggested Citation

Becker, Sascha O. and Woessmann, Ludger, Knocking on Heaven's Door? Protestantism and Suicide. IZA Discussion Paper No. 5773. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1867042

Sascha O. Becker (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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HOME PAGE: http://sobecker.de

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Ifo Institute for Economic Research

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Germany

Ludger Woessmann

Ifo Institute for Economic Research ( email )

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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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