Sect, Subsidy, and Sacrifice: an Economist's View of Ultra-Orthodox Jews
50 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2000 Last revised: 5 Oct 2001
Date Written: August 1998
The Israeli Ultra-Orthodox population doubles each seventeen years. With 60 % of prime aged males attending Yeshiva rather than working, that community is rapidly outgrowing its resources. Why do fathers with families in poverty choose Yeshiva over work? Draft deferments subsidize Yeshiva attendance, yet attendance typically continues long after they are draft exempt. We explain this puzzle with a club good model in which Yeshiva attendance signals commitment to the community. Subsidizing membership in a club with sacrifice as an entry requirement induces increased sacrifice, compounding the distortion and dissipating the subsidy. Policies treating members and potential entrants equally are Pareto improving. The analysis may generalize to other by increasing the stringency of prohibitions and sacrifice.
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