Max Weber and the First World War: Protestant and Catholic living standards in Germany, 1915-1919

Matthias Blum, Matthias Strebel

Research output: Working paper


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 1914-19 birth cohort, and we argue that this height gap cannot be attributed to socioeconomic background and fertility alone.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherQueen's University Belfast
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 04 Dec 2015

Publication series

NameEconomics Working Paper Series
PublisherQueen's Management School


  • First World War
  • stature
  • Germany
  • Religion
  • Protestantism
  • Catholicism
  • Economic History
  • anthropometrics
  • biological standard of living
  • height
  • Institutions
  • Max Weber


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