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Religious Identity and Economic Behavior

We find using laboratory experiments that primes that make religion salient cause subjects to identify more with their religion and affect their economic choices. The effect on choices varies by religion. For example, priming causes Protestants to increase contributions to public goods, whereas Catholics decrease contributions to public goods, expect others to contribute less to public goods, and become less risk averse. A simple model implies that priming effects reveal the sign of the marginal impact of religious norms on preferences. We find no evidence of religious priming effects on disutility of work effort, discount rates, or dictator game generosity.

Authors: 
Daniel Benjamin, Cornell University
James Choi
Geoffrey Fisher
Publication Date: 
October, 2016
HCEO Working Groups: 
Publication Type: 
Journal: 
Review of Economics and Statistics
Volume: 
98
Issue Number: 
4
Pages: 
617-637