Religiosity and State Welfare
NBER Working Paper No. 19169
The Catholic sex abuse scandals reduced both membership and religiosity in the Catholic Church. Because government spending on welfare may substitute for the religious provision of social services, we consider whether this plausibly exogenous decline in religiosity affected several measures of the public taste towards government spending on welfare between 1990 and 2008. In places where there were more scandals, individuals state a preference for less government provision of social services. In contrast, a higher level of abuse is also associated with an increase in voting for Democratic candidates for President and state legislatures, and an increase in per capita government welfare spending, although this increase is insufficient to replace the decrease in Catholic-provided charity.
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