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Religion: Productive or Unproductive?

Travis Wiseman

Mississippi State University - Department of Finance and Economics

Andrew T. Young

Rawls College of Business, Texas Tech University

July 2013

Journal of Institutional Economics, Forthcoming

In this paper we investigate the relationships between informal institutions – proxied for by measures of religiosity – and levels of entrepreneurial activity, both productive and unproductive, using cross-section U.S. state level data. In doing so, we evaluate Baumol’s (1990) conjectures on the role of institutions in determining whether entrepreneurs will channel their efforts towards wealth-generating activities or towards zero- or negative-sum rent-seeking. We distinguish between measures of both the belief (e.g., the frequency of prayer) and belonging (e.g., church attendance) that has been stressed by authors such as Barro and McCleary (2003). We find that several religious variables significantly and negatively correlate with a state’s productive entrepreneurship score. Alternatively, most religious variables in our data do not correlate significantly with unproductive entrepreneurship. We also find that the percent of individuals reporting as atheist/agnostic is positively associated with productive entrepreneurship.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 36

Keywords: productive entrepreneurship, unproductive entrepreneurship, rent-seeking, religion, U.S. states

JEL Classification: L26, O10, O18, O51, R11, Z12

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Date posted: January 30, 2013 ; Last revised: July 28, 2013

Suggested Citation

Wiseman, Travis and Young, Andrew T., Religion: Productive or Unproductive? (July 2013). Journal of Institutional Economics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2208711 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2208711

Contact Information

Travis Wiseman (Contact Author)
Mississippi State University - Department of Finance and Economics ( email )
Mississippi State, MS 39762
United States
Andrew T. Young
Rawls College of Business, Texas Tech University ( email )
P.O. Box 6025
Lubbock, TX 79410
United States
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