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Appears in Collections:Economics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History
Author(s): Becker, Sascha
Woessmann, Ludger
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Keywords: Human capital
economic history of Prussia
JEL classification: N33, Z12, I20
Weber, Max, 1864-1920 Criticism and interpretation
Capitalism Religious aspects Protestant churches
Prussia (Germany) Economic conditions 19th century
Church and education Prussia (Germany)
Issue Date: May-2009
Date Deposited: 1-Oct-2009
Citation: Becker S & Woessmann L (2009) Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 124 (2), pp. 531-596.
Abstract: Max Weber attributed the higher economic prosperity of Protestant regions to a Protestant work ethic. We provide an alternative theory: Protestant economies prospered because instruction in reading the Bible generated the human capital crucial to economic prosperity. We test the theory using county-level data from late 19th-century Prussia, exploiting the initial concentric dispersion of the Reformation to use distance to Wittenberg as an instrument for Protestantism. We find that Protestantism indeed led to higher economic prosperity, but also to better education. Our results are consistent with Protestants’ higher literacy accounting for most of the gap in economic prosperity.
DOI Link: 10.1162/qjec.2009.124.2.531
Rights: Published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Copyright: © 2009 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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