Human Capital, Religiosity, and Economic Development: Evidence from 19th Century France
This research project aims to contribute to the existing literature on the role of cultural factors (such as education and religiosity) for long-term economic development, by answering two crucial questions for both researchers and policy makers: 1. Does mass education matter for economic development? In the existing studies, mass education is generally considered irrelevant for innovation and early industrialization. However, it has always been measured using literacy or school rates. In this project, I will distinguish between quantity (school rates) and quality (subjects studied) of mass education. My hypothesis is that if primary schools’ teaching is based on a conservative approach, adverse to sciences and innovations, a high school rate would not lead to higher development. On the other hand, if “scientifically useful knowledge” is introduced in the school curriculum, mass education could lead to higher growth. 2. Does religiosity play a role in fostering/hampering innovation, and economic growth? Existing studies provide mixed evidence on the role of religious intensity for economic outcomes. Here I will argue that religiosity "per se" is neither opposing nor favoring economic development, but that in different stages of development, the interaction between religious beliefs and the specific knowledge needed to operate the new technology (probably operating through education and skills acquisition) is key.