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Randomizing Religion: The Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes

Gharad T. Bryan, James J. Choi, Dean Karlan

NBER Working Paper No. 24278
Issued in February 2018, Revised in July 2020
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Health Economics, Labor Studies

We study the causal impact of religiosity through a randomized evaluation of an evangelical Protestant Christian values and theology education program delivered to thousands of ultra-poor Filipino households. Six months after the program ended, treated households have higher religiosity and income; no statistically significant differences in total labor supply, consumption, food security, or life satisfaction; and lower perceived relative economic status. Exploratory analysis suggests that the income treatment effect may operate through increasing grit. Thirty months after the program ended, significant differences in the intensity of religiosity disappear, but those in the treatment group are less likely to be Catholic and more likely to be Protestant, and there is some mixed evidence that their consumption and perceived relative economic status are higher.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24278

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