An Economic Theory of Church Strictness

Posted: 29 Oct 2002

See all articles by Nuno Garoupa

Nuno Garoupa

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Pedro P. Barros

Universidade Nova de Lisboa

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This paper makes several contributions to the growing literature on the economics of religion. First, we explicitly introduce spatial-location models into the economics of religion. Second, we offer a new explanation for the observed tendency of state (monopoly) churches to locate toward the "low-tension" end of the "strictness continuum" (in a one-dimensional product space): This result is obtained through the conjunction of "benevolent preferences" (denominations care about the aggregate utility of members) and asymmetric costs of going to a more or less strict church than one prefers. We also derive implications regarding the relationship between religious strictness and membership. The driving forces of our analysis, religious market interactions and asymmetric costs of membership, high-light new explanations for some well-established stylized facts. The analysis opens the way to new empirical tests, aimed at confronting the implications of our model against more traditional explanations.

Keywords: Location theory, economics of religion

JEL Classification: Z

Suggested Citation

Garoupa, Nuno and Pita Barros, Pedro Luis, An Economic Theory of Church Strictness. Economic Journal, Vol. 112, pp. 558-575, 2002. Available at SSRN:

Nuno Garoupa (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Pedro Luis Pita Barros

Universidade Nova de Lisboa ( email )

Campus de Campolide
Lisboa, 1099-032
+351 21 383 3624 (Phone)
+351 21 388 6073 (Fax)


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