Social Cohesion, Religious Beliefs, and the Effect of Protestantism on Suicide

54 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2015

See all articles by Sascha O. Becker

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

Date Written: March 31, 2015

Abstract

In an economic theory of suicide, we model social cohesion of the religious community and religious beliefs about afterlife as two mechanisms by which Protestantism increases suicide propensity. We build a unique micro-regional dataset of 452 Prussian counties in 1816-21 and 1869-71, when religiousness was still pervasive. Exploiting the concentric dispersion of Protestantism around Wittenberg, our instrumental-variable model finds that Protestantism had a substantial positive effect on suicide. We address issues of bias from mental illness, misreporting, weather conditions, within-county heterogeneity, religious concentration, and gender composition. Tests that discriminate between the two mechanisms based on historical church-attendance data and modern suicide data suggest that the sociological channel dominates the theological channel.

Keywords: religion, suicide, social cohesion

JEL Classification: Z120, N330

Suggested Citation

Becker, Sascha O. and Woessmann, Ludger, Social Cohesion, Religious Beliefs, and the Effect of Protestantism on Suicide (March 31, 2015). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 5288. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2593731

Sascha O. Becker

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://sobecker.de

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Ifo Institute for Economic Research

Munich
Germany

Ludger Woessmann (Contact Author)

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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