From Worship to Worldly Pleasures: Secularization and Long-Run Economic Growth
AbstractIn medieval times, most people identifi ed with religious values and aggregate income and productivity grew at glacier speed. In the 20th century, religion played a much lesser role in daily life and income and productivity grew at high and unprecedented rates. The present paper develops a simple economic theory of identity choice that explains both stylized facts as well as a period of secularization during which an increasing share of the population abandons religious identity for worldly pleasures and aggregate productivity takes off . An extension of the basic model investigates the Protestant reformation as an intermediate stage. Another extension introduces socially-dependent religious preferences, establishes the endogenous emergence of multiple, self-ful lling equilibria, and demonstrates how a social multiplier amplifi es the speed of transition.
religion; identity; economic growth; productivity; secularization; comparative development