Project dates: 01/02/2013 - Ongoing
This project aims to takes advantage of an increasingly richer set of data to explore many important motives such as national patriotism, political partisanship, religious faith, moral principle, love, hate, and survival.
Why is this important?
The impact of new and sophisticated methods in the study of the past allows a better exploration of human nature from a behavioural economics perspective, combining historical problems with advanced statistical analysis using controlled settings for such natural experiments. This project takes advantage of an increasingly richer set of data to explore many important motives such as national patriotism, political partisanship, religious faith, moral principle, love, hate, and survival. A current project may help clarify what is possible. We are currently exploring whether religious ideology explains effort expenditure decisions in salient settings. For that, we analyse a novel dataset of over 16,000 WWII soldiers from the German military archives and show that, consistent with Max Weber’s proposition, Protestant soldiers expend more effort than Catholics, receiving more military decorations and promotions and sustaining more injuries. We rule out differences in commitment to the Nazi ideology and discrimination against Catholic soldiers as key alternate explanations. The rich nature of our dataset allows us to control for a wide range of covariates, which account for only half of the effect size. Our results are confirmed in instrumental variable regressions exploiting the distance between soldier birthplaces and Wittenberg, where Martin Luther initiated the Reformation, as a source of exogenous variation in the exposure to Protestantism. We find evidence of cultural spillovers, as Catholics from historically Protestant districts exert more effort than Catholics from Catholic districts, and of convergence at the top, as differences are smaller among top performers and insignificant among the most fanatical Nazi group of all, the Waffen-SS.
What we are doing
The key advantage of our study, in comparison with existing work, is that the salient setting allows us to observe behaviour that is more closely related to preferences for work. A central difficulty with the question of whether religious denomination affects preferences for work is that the econometrician does not observe preferences directly. Our setting allows us to observe behaviour that is more closely related to preferences, since incentives to shirk at wartime are extremely high. Put simply, if Protestantism has any ‘bite’ on work effort, we are much more likely to observe its effects in a setting where effort has very serious consequences, as is the case for the soldiers in our dataset. In addition to the above literature on the Protestant work ethic hypothesis, our work is related to other strands of research such as investigation of the role of religion, and of culture more broadly, in shaping economic outcomes or the growing literature on the economics of awards – all of which is linked to the other projects. Awards are widely used in all arenas of society, from the army, to the arts, media, and fashion; sports, religion, voluntary and humanitarian sectors; academia and the business world. The core of the cliometrics project is an investigation that goes beyond people’s daily interactions in families, neighbourhoods, or work groups. This differs from the sociometrics project, as these behaviours offer only limited understanding of human or cultural values in extreme situations. Most social science studies seek to capture behaviour under “normal” conditions and thus provide no clear evidence on how or whether their results would apply in extreme or difficult environments. Thus, this project extends on recent work that we have conducted that explores decision-making under stress. A key advantage of exploring life-and-death situations is that preferences are clearly revealed.
For more information about this project please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Team Members
- Lionel Page
- Rebecca Morton
- Daniel Muller
- Markus Schaffner
- Marco Portmann
- Gigi Foster
- Christopher Schaltegger
- Skali, Ahmed, Stadelmann, David, Torgler, Benno (2021) Trust in government in times of crisis: A quasi-experiment during the two world wars Journal of Comparative Economics, 49 (2), pp.277-289.
- Savage, David, Chan, Ho Fai, Moy, Naomi, Schaffner, Markus, Torgler, Benno (2020) Personality and individual characteristics as indicators of lifetime climbing success among Everest mountaineers Personality and Individual Differences, 162, pp.Article number: 110044.
- Torgler, Benno, Stadelmann, David, Portmann, Marco (2020) Church Voting Recommendations, Voter Preferences, and Political Decisions Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 59 (3), pp.455-475.
- Torgler, Benno, Foster, Gigi (2019) Opportunities and challenges of portable biological, social, and behavioral sensing systems for the social sciences Biophysical Measurement in Experimental Social Science Research: Theory and Practice, pp.197-224.
- Morton, Rebecca, Muller, Daniel, Page, Lionel, Torgler, Benno (2015) Exit polls, turnout, and bandwagon voting: Evidence from a natural experiment European Economic Review, 77, pp.65-81.
- Page, Lionel, Savage, David, Torgler, Benno (2014) Variation in risk seeking behaviour following large losses: A natural experiment European Economic Review, 71, pp.121-131.
- Torgler, Benno, Schaltegger, Christoph (2014) Suicide and religion: New evidence on the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 53 (2), pp.316-340.
- Stadelmann, David, Torgler, Benno (2013) Bounded rationality and voting decisions over 160 years: Voter behavior and increasing complexity in decision-making PLoS One, 8 (12), pp.1-8.