19th century 'Protestant work ethic' at heart of Europe's North/South debt crisis split

Research from the University of Warwick suggests the 19th Century 'protestant work ethic' could have given the economies of northern Europe a head start on their southern neighbours, and is still shaping popular northern European feeling that rankles against bailing out struggling southerners.

Listen to Dr Becker discussing his research

Sascha Becker, Deputy Director of the University's Centre for Advantage in the (CAGE), collated data to discover if Max Weber's Protestant Work Ethic theory, that Protestantism encouraged hard work as a duty of faith, really did help explain how Protestant areas developed compared to Catholic areas.

Dr Becker used data from 19th Century Prussia and looked at 450 counties. He found that was higher in Protestant areas and there were more people working in services and manufacturing, rather than agriculture. He also found a larger between those in Protestant areas and those in Catholic areas.

He said: "We looked at Prussia in the 19th Century because this was the society that Max Weber was born into. was also more pervasive at this time. It seems religion was the main driver behind education differences, Protestants were more encouraged to go to school and read the bible, and this higher level of education translated into higher incomes than their Catholic neighbours."

In Protestant areas in the 16th Century Reformers pushed to make sure there were church schools operating in all parishes. Dr Becker said this gave Protestants an educational advantage over Catholics and it took more than 100 years for Catholics to catch up.

Dr Becker said: "It was only centuries later when compulsory schooling was introduced that the Catholics began to catch up with the Protestants. Even today, looking at data from 2000 in Germany we found that had higher level or more education than . They also had a higher probability of going to University and finishing their course."

The research found that women in Protestant areas tended to be more liberated because girls were educated along with the boys.

Dr Becker said: "Again it is this educational advantage that Protestant girls were sent to school with the boys in the early years of the Reformation. It seems Protestantism was an early driver of emancipation. The order seems to be Protestant men, Protestant women, Catholic men and then far, far below are Catholic women. It is surprising that even today we find that in Scandinavia the majority of women go out to work, but in Italy it is more traditional and a larger number stay home to look after the children."

He added that his findings were particularly interesting in light of the recent European Sovereign debt crisis.

He said: "It is noticeable that the Northern European countries seem to be doing well to keep their finances in check whereas in Southern European countries such as Spain and Italy, everything is running out of order. I would not say you can attribute this to religion per se, but it certainly had a bearing on the way their respective economies have developed. There is a North/South divide and a popular feeling in that they should not have to bail out their debt-ridden Southern neighbours."

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More information: Dr Becker's research papers on this issue are: Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History (with Ludger Woessmann), The Quarterly Journal of Economics (QJE), 2009, vol. 124(2), 531-596. dx.doi.org/10.1162/qjec.2009.124.2.531
Citation: 19th century 'Protestant work ethic' at heart of Europe's North/South debt crisis split (2011, September 29) retrieved 22 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2011-09-19th-century-protestant-ethic-heart.html
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User comments

Sep 29, 2011
I suggest that they collect data from the "Bible belt" of the southern USA. They may well find the data skewed in the opposite direction.

Sep 29, 2011
The fact that more men manage public finances in southern Europe may indicate men are more corruptible, distracted, or financially incompetent.

The study appears to establish women as supervisor financial managers, in the public-sectors, at work, and perhaps at home.

Sep 29, 2011
If women managed finances though, most of the money would go on clothes and makeup.

Sep 29, 2011
No comment is made about the organization of the Protestants or Catholics.
Catholicism facilitated feudal empires as it was once the ONLY empire for centuries.
Luther and Calvin's protests accelerated the process of individual liberty and rule of law instead of the rule of kings.

Many were worried if JFK would answer to the people of the USA or to the Pope.

Oct 02, 2011
How young ambitious capos and soldiers from Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) under supervision of a decrepit american don-godfather from Northwestern University are successfully completed their sequential plagiaristic enterprise: http://issuu.com/...saivaldi

Oct 02, 2011
The people from northern countries must learn to plan, organize their time and save their resources for long cold winter. The southerners have no such behavior in their genes.

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