One of the themes of this site is that religion is an under-appreciated factor in shaping people's attitudes toward capitalism. New evidence for that proposition comes from a new working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research by Cornell University's Daniel Benjamin, Yale's James Choi., and Cornell's Geoffrey W. Fisher titled "Religious Identity and Economic Behavior." From the abstract:
We create exogenous variation by randomly varying religious identity salience in laboratory subjects. The marginal effect of religious identity is the change in subjects' choices when religion is salient. We test six hypotheses from prior literature. We find that Protestantism increases contributions to public goods. Catholicism decreases contributions to public goods, decreases expectations of others' contributions to public goods, and decreases risk aversion. Judaism increases worker reciprocity in a bilateral labor market gift-exchange game. We find no evidence of religious identity effects on disutility of work effort, discount rates, or generosity in a dictator game.
The abstract and a link to the paper for $5 at the NBER Web site is here; a free download is available on the Yale site here. The paper begins with a review of some of the prior literature on the topic, which, whether one agrees or disagrees with the particular assertions, is intriguing:
Barro and McCleary (2003, 2006) find evidence that belief in heaven and hell increases GDP growth rates, a result that they hypothesize is due to the salutary effect of this belief on work ethic, honesty, trust, and thrift. Putnam (1993) and La Porta et al. (1997) argue that Catholicism inhibits trust, which has negative effects on GDP growth, government efficiency, the production of public goods, and the maximum feasible size of corporations. Putnam (1993) also argues that Protestantism promotes trust. Relatedly, Ruffle and Sosis (2007) find that participation in collective religious rituals is associated with greater trust and cooperativeness. Stulz and Williamson (2003) show that a country's principal religion is correlated with the strength of its creditor rights; Guiso, Sapienza, and Zingales (2003) find positive correlations between Christian religions and attitudes conducive to economic growth; and Hilary and Hui (2009) and Kumar, Page, and Spalt (2009) argue that religious risk norms affect corporations' investment decisions and individuals' stock portfolios.