Religion, division of labor, and conflict: anti-semitism in Germany over 600 years

Sascha O. Becker, Luigi Pascali

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48 Citations (Scopus)


We study the role of economic incentives in shaping the coexistence of Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, using novel data from Germany for 1,000+ cities. The Catholic usury ban and higher literacy rates gave Jews a specifc advantage in the moneylending sector. Following the Protestant Reformation (1517), the Jews lost these advantages in regions that became Protestant. We show (i) a change in the geography of anti-Semitism with persecutions of Jews and anti-Jewish publications becoming more common in Protestant areas relative to Catholic areas; (ii) a more pronounced change in cities where Jews had already established themselves as moneylenders. These fndings are consistent with the interpretation that, following the Protestant Reformation, Jews living in Protestant regions were exposed to competition with the Christian majority, especially in moneylending, leading to an increase in anti-Semitism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1764-1804
Number of pages41
JournalAmerican Economic Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

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