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ERIC Number: ED498129
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Apr-20
Pages: 62
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 70
Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History. PEPG/07-04
Becker, Sascha O.; Wohmann, Ludger
Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University
Max Weber attributed the higher economic prosperity of Protestant regions to a Protestant work ethic. We provide an alternative theory, where Protestant economies prospered because instruction in reading the Bible generated the human capital crucial to economic prosperity. County-level data from late 19th-century Prussia reveal that Protestantism was indeed associated not only with higher economic prosperity, but also with better education. We find that Protestants' higher literacy can account for the whole gap in economic prosperity. Results hold when we exploit the initial concentric dispersion of the Reformation to use distance to Wittenberg as an instrument for Protestantism. Two appendixes are included: (1) Census Data for Prussia in the 1870s/1880s; and (2) The Spread of Literacy from Lutheran Times to 1871. (Contains 32 footnotes, 4 figures, and 13 tables.)
Program on Education Policy and Governance. Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Taubman 304, Cambridge, MA 02138. Tel: 617-495-7976; Fax: 617-496-4428; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Numerical/Quantitative Data; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA. Kennedy School of Government.