Max Weber and the First World War: Protestant and Catholic living standards in Germany, 1914-1919

Matthias Blum, Matthias Strebel

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Abstract

We assess informal institutions of Protestants and Catholics by investigating their economic resilience in a natural experiment. The First World War constitutes an exogenous shock to living standards since the duration and intensity of the war exceeded all expectations. We assess the ability of Protestant and Catholic communities to cope with increasing food prices and wartime black markets. Literature based on Weber (1904, 1905) suggests that Protestants must be more resilient than their Catholic peers. Using individual height data on some 2,800 Germans to assess levels of malnutrition during the war, we find that living standards for both Protestants and Catholics declined; however, the decrease of Catholics’ height was disproportionately large. Our empirical analysis finds a large statistically significant difference between Protestants and Catholics for the 1915–19 birth cohort, and we argue that this height gap cannot be attributed to socioeconomic background and fertility alone.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-719
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Institutional Economics
Volume12
Issue number3
Early online date17 Feb 2016
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 17 Feb 2016

Keywords

  • N14
  • I20
  • I30

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