nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2020‒06‒29
three papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Religion in Economic History: A Survey By Becker, Sascha O.; Rubin, Jared; Woessmann, Ludger
  2. Pandemics and asymmetric shocks: evidence from the history of plague in Europe and the Mediterranean By Alfani, Guido
  3. The Coordinating Power of Social Norms By Francesco Fallucchi; Daniele Nosenzo

  1. By: Becker, Sascha O. (Monash University); Rubin, Jared (Chapman University); Woessmann, Ludger (Ifo Institute for Economic Research)
    Abstract: This chapter surveys the recent social science literature on religion in economic history, covering both socioeconomic causes and consequences of religion. Following the rapidly growing literature, it focuses on the three main monotheisms—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and on the period up to WWII. Works on Judaism address Jewish occupational specialization, human capital, emancipation, and the causes and consequences of Jewish persecution. One set of papers on Christianity studies the role of the Catholic Church in European economic history since the medieval period. Taking advantage of newly digitized data and advanced econometric techniques, the voluminous literature on the Protestant Reformation studies its socioeconomic causes as well as its consequences for human capital, secularization, political change, technology diffusion, and social outcomes. Works on missionaries show that early access to Christian missions still has political, educational, and economic consequences in present-day Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Much of the economics of Islam focuses on the role that Islam and Islamic institutions played in political-economy outcomes and in the "long divergence" between the Middle East and Western Europe. Finally, cross-country analyses seek to understand the broader determinants of religious practice and its various effects across the world. We highlight three general insights that emerge from this literature. First, the monotheistic character of the Abrahamic religions facilitated a close historical interconnection of religion with political power and conflict. Second, human capital often played a leading role in the interconnection between religion and economic history. Third, many socioeconomic factors matter in the historical development of religions.
    Keywords: religion, economic history, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, economic development, education, persecution, political economy, finance, specialization, trade
    JEL: Z12 N00 J15 I15 I25
    Date: 2020–06
  2. By: Alfani, Guido (Bocconi University)
    Abstract: The history of plague suggests that severe pandemics can have extremely important and potentially permanent asymmetric economic consequences. However, these consequences depend upon the initial conditions and could not be foretold a priori. To support this view, this short article illustrates the ability of major plagues to cause asymmetric shocks. The Black Death might have been at the origin of the Great Divergence between western Europe and East Asia, but also within Europe it had quite heterogeneous consequences. The last great European plagues of the seventeenth century favoured the rise of North Europe to the detriment of the South. Additionally, within Italy, they had a differential impact allowing for the rise of the Sabaudian State and contributing to the decline of the Republic of Venice. The article argues that the implication for today societies facing Covid-19, is that given that the final demographic and economic consequences of this pandemic are impossible to predict, collective answers to the crisis, possibly coordinated by the EU, are highly advisable.
    Keywords: pandemics; plague; Covid-19; Black Death; Great Divergence; Little Divergence; historical demography; economic history; Italy; Europe JEL Classification:
    Date: 2020
  3. By: Francesco Fallucchi (Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER), Luxembourg); Daniele Nosenzo (Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University)
    Abstract: A popular empirical technique to measure norms uses coordination games to elicit what subjects in an experiment consider appropriate behavior in a given situation (Krupka and Weber, 2013). The Krupka-Weber method works under the assumption that subjects use their normative expectations to solve the coordination game. However, subjects might use alternative focal points to coordinate, in which case the method may deliver distorted measurements of the social norm. We test the vulnerability of the Krupka-Weber method to the presence of alternative salient focal points. We find that the method is robust as long as there are clear normative expectations about what constitutes appropriate behavior. In settings where there is a less clear consensus about the social norm, the method is more vulnerable.
    Keywords: Social norms, Krupka-Weber method, Coordination, Focal point, Saliency, Dictator game
    JEL: C72 C91
    Date: 2020–06–19

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