The effects of the Protestant Reformation on human capital

Sascha O. Becker, Ludger Woessmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

Abstract

Max Weber's (1904) thesis that the Protestant Reformation was instrumental in facilitating industrial capitalism in Western Europe is generally viewed as the "most famous link between culture and economic development." Weber suggested that Protestants had a specific work ethic that made them work harder and save more. In recent work, an alternative explanation has been proposed that receives strong empirical support: Protestants had higher human capital, which made them more productive and therefore increased their economic prosperity. This article explores the recent advancements in the economics of religion that assign a leading role to human capital in understanding the economic effects of the Reformation. It first provides a brief sketch of the underlying theory and then presents extensive evidence on the effects of the Reformation on human capital using data from nineteenth-century Prussia. The article also discusses consequences beyond education, covering effects on economic development as well as on the fertility decline. Evidence from outside Prussia, both across and within countries, is also presented.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion
EditorsRachel M. McCleary
PublisherOxford University Press
Pages93-110
Number of pages18
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940332
ISBN (Print)9780195390049
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Economic development
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Fertility
  • Human capital
  • Protestants
  • Prussia
  • Reformation
  • Religion

Cite this

Becker, S. O., & Woessmann, L. (2011). The effects of the Protestant Reformation on human capital. In R. M. McCleary (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion (1st ed., pp. 93-110). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195390049.013.0005
Becker, Sascha O. ; Woessmann, Ludger. / The effects of the Protestant Reformation on human capital. The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion. editor / Rachel M. McCleary. 1st. ed. Oxford University Press, 2011. pp. 93-110
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Becker, SO & Woessmann, L 2011, The effects of the Protestant Reformation on human capital. in RM McCleary (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion. 1st edn, Oxford University Press, pp. 93-110. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195390049.013.0005

The effects of the Protestant Reformation on human capital. / Becker, Sascha O.; Woessmann, Ludger.

The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion. ed. / Rachel M. McCleary. 1st. ed. Oxford University Press, 2011. p. 93-110.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

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Becker SO, Woessmann L. The effects of the Protestant Reformation on human capital. In McCleary RM, editor, The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion. 1st ed. Oxford University Press. 2011. p. 93-110 https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195390049.013.0005