Mara Squicciarini (Northwestern University), Devotion and Development: Religiosity, Education, and Economic Progress in 19th-Century France, Job Market Seminar, Toulouse: TSE, January 17, 2017, 14:00–15:30, room MS001.


This paper uses a historical setting to study when religion can be a barrier for diffusion of knowledge and economic development, and through which mechanism. I focus on 19th-century Catholicism and analyze a crucial phase of modern economic growth, the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914) in France. In this period, technology became skill-intensive, leading to the introduction of technical education in primary schools. At the same time, the Catholic Church was promoting a particularly anti-scientific program, and opposed the adoption of a technical curriculum. Using data collected from primary and secondary sources, I exploit preexisting variation in intensity of Catholicism (i.e., religiosity) among the different districts. I show that, despite a stable spatial distribution of religiosity over time (from 1788 to the 1950s), more religious districts had lower economic development only during the Second Industrial Revolution, but not before. Schooling appears to be the key mechanism: in more Catholic areas there was a slower introduction of a technical curriculum, and instead a push for religious education. Religious education, in turn, was negatively associated with industrial development about 10-15 years later, when school-aged children would enter the labor market, and this negative relationship was more pronounced in skill-intensive industrial sectors.