A Ph.D. student at Harvard is taking on Max Weber (pronounced VAY – burr) over the whole Protestant work ethic thing. Davide Cantoni uses several hundred years worth of German data and finds no effects on economic growth. Here, I’ll let him tell it:
Many theories, most famously Max Weber’s essay on the ‘Protestant ethic,’ have hypothesized that Protestantism should have favored economic development. With their considerable religious heterogeneity and stability of denominational affiliations until the 19th century, the German Lands of the Holy Roman Empire present an ideal testing ground for this hypothesis. Using population figures in a dataset comprising 276 cities in the years 1300-1900, I find no effects of Protestantism on economic growth. The finding is robust to the inclusion of a variety of controls, and does not appear to depend on data selection or small sample size. In addition, Protestantism has no effect when interacted with other likely determinants of economic development. I also analyze the endogeneity of religious choice; instrumental variables estimates of the effects of Protestantism are similar to the OLS results.
So, for the econometrically challenged amongst you, that means he ran a lot of regressions a lot of different ways, and the religion variables don’t ever seem to matter.
Scratch that one off the Freshman Studies reading list.
Of course, we here at LU know a thing or two about the economics of religion. Just come by for TeaBA some time and we’ll tell you all about it.