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2020 Working papers

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1273 - Religion in Economic History: A Survey

Sascha O. Becker, Jared Rubin & Ludger Woessmann

This chapter surveys the recent social science literature on religion in economic history, covering both socioeconomic causes and consequences of religion. Following the rapidly growing literature, it focuses on the three main monotheisms—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and on the period up to WWII. Works on Judaism address Jewish occupational specialization, human capital, emancipation, and the causes and consequences of Jewish persecution. One set of papers on Christianity studies the role of the Catholic Church in European economic history since the medieval period. Taking advantage of newly digitized data and advanced econometric techniques, the voluminous literature on the Protestant Reformation studies its socioeconomic causes as well as its consequences for human capital, secularization, political change, technology diffusion, and social outcomes. Works on missionaries show that early access to Christian missions still has political, educational, and economic consequences in present-day Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Much of the economics of Islam focuses on the role that Islam and Islamic institutions played in political-economy outcomes and in the “long divergence” between the Middle East and Western Europe. Finally, cross-country analyses seek to understand the broader determinants of religious practice and its various effects across the world. We highlight three general insights that emerge from this literature. First, the monotheistic character of the Abrahamic religions facilitated a close historical interconnection of religion with political power and conflict. Second, human capital often played a leading role in the interconnection between religion and economic history. Third, many socioeconomic factors matter in the historical development of religions.

1270 - India’s Lockdown: An Interim Report

Debraj Ray and S. Subramanian

Our goal is to provide an interim report on the Indian lock down provoked by the covid19 pandemic. While our main themes — ranging from the philosophy of lock down to the provision of relief measures — transcend the Indian case, our context is deeply India-specific in several senses that we hope will become clear through the article. A fundamental theme that recurs throughout our writing is the enormous visibility of covid19 deaths worldwide,now that sensitivities and anxieties regarding the pandemic have been honed to an extreme sharpness. Governments everywhere are propelled to respect this visibility, developing countries perhaps even more so than their developed counterparts. In advanced economies, the cost of achieving this reduction in visible deaths is“merely”a dramatic reduction in overall economic activity,coupled with a far reaching relief package to partly compensate those who bear such losses. But for India, adevelopingcountrywithgreatsectoralandoccupationalvulnerabilities,this dramatic reduction is more than economics: it means lives lost. These lost lives,through violence, starvation, indebtedness and extreme stress, both psychological and physiological, are invisible, in the sense that they are—and will continue to be—diffuse in space, time, cause and category. They will blend into the surrounding landscape; they are not news, though the intrepid statistician or economist will pick them up as the months go by. It is this conjunction of visibility and invisibility that drives the Indian response. The lock down meets all international standards so far; the relief package none.