The Reversal of the Mission: The Influence of Religious Leaders on Sociopolitical Attitudes
101 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2022
Date Written: October 15, 2022
This paper explores how religious leaders influence their communities’ religious and political attitudes. To do this, I rely on novel data containing the universe of Catholic priests appointed to their parishes in rural Spain between 2000 and 2019. I leverage the natural experiment by which foreign-born priests are allocated to Spanish parishes and use a staggered difference-in-differences design to identify their influence on their communities. I show that foreign-born priests, whom I find more devoted to their cause, are effective at revitalizing local religiosity, measured by an increase in Catholic marriages and fertility. They also influence local political attitudes towards Catholic positions. However, such extra influence prevents parishioners from challenging the old status quo, measured by the higher maintenance of dictatorial honors, limiting social progress. These findings highlight that religious leaders have a considerable impact on sociopolitical attitudes.
Keywords: Catholic Church, Political Influence, Missionaries, Religious Revival
JEL Classification: D64, D72, J61, O43, Z12, Z13
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