Exporting Christianity: Governance and Doctrine in the Globalization of US Denominations

Gordon H. Hanson, Chong Xiang

NBER Working Paper No. 16964
Issued in April 2011
NBER Program(s):International Trade and Investment

In this paper we build a model of market competition among religious denominations, using a framework that involves incomplete contracts and the production of club goods. We treat denominations akin to multinational enterprises, which decide which countries to enter based on local market conditions and their own "productivity." The model yields predictions for how a denomination's religious doctrine and governance structure affect its ability to attract adherents. We test these predictions using data on the foreign operations of US Protestant denominations in 2005 from the World Christian Database. Consistent with the model, we find that (1) denominations with stricter religious doctrine attract more adherents in countries in which the risk of natural disaster or disease outbreak is greater and in which government provision of health services is weaker, and (2) denominations with a decentralized governance structure attract more adherents in countries in which the productivity of pastor effort is higher. These findings shed light on factors determining the composition of religion within countries, helping account for the rise of new Protestant denominations in recent decades.

download in pdf format
   (324 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16964

Published: Hanson, Gordon H. & Xiang, Chong, 2013. "Exporting Christianity: Governance and doctrine in the globalization of US denominations," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 301-320. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Berman and Iannaccone w11663 Religious Extremism: The Good, The Bad, and The Deadly
Burstein and Melitz w16960 Trade Liberalization and Firm Dynamics
Hungerman w16973 The Effect of Education on Religion: Evidence from Compulsory Schooling Laws
Hanson and Xiang w14461 Testing the Melitz Model of Trade: An Application to U.S. Motion Picture Exports
Barro and McCleary w9682 Religion and Economic Growth
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us