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Iannaccone1998_Edward - Journal of Economic Literature Vol...

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Journal of Economic Literature Vol. XXXVI (September 1998), pp. 1465–1496 Iannaccone: Economics of Religion Introduction to the Economics of Religion L AURENCE R . I ANNACCONE 1 1. Introduction W ITH TWO CENTURIES separating its first and second publications, there is no denying that the economics of religion got off to a slow start. Yet de- spite this leisurely launch, dozens of economists (and several sociologists) have now picked up where Adam Smith ([1776] 1965) and Corry Azzi and Ronald Ehrenberg (1975) left off. Armed with the tools of economic theory and a large body of data, they have written nearly 200 papers concerning issues that were previously confined to other social sci- ences—the determinants of religious be- lief and behavior, the nature of religious institutions, and the social and economic impact of religion. If the study of reli- gion does not yet warrant a JEL classifi- cation number, let alone the subfield status that it enjoys within every other social science, it nevertheless qualifies as new territory within the expanding do- main of economics. 2 Studies of religion promise to en- hance economics at several levels: gen- erating information about a neglected area of “nonmarket” behavior; showing how economic models can be modified to address questions about belief, norms, and values; and exploring how religion (and, by extension, morals and culture) affect economic attitudes and activities of individuals, groups, and so- cieties. At the same time, the studies promise to influence sociology, particu- larly the sociology of religion, which has developed a serious interest in the eco- nomic approach. Because nearly all this work is new and scattered over a variety of journals both in and out of econom- ics, an introductory survey would seem to be in order. 3 A survey serves also to dispel the 1465 1 Santa Clara University. Acknowledgments: I am indebted to many colleagues for their com- ments and suggestions, particularly Gary Ander- son, Christopher Ellison, Ross Emmett, Timur Kuran, John Murray, John Pencavel, Fred Pryor, Jonathan Sarna, Darren Sherkat, Jonathan Wright, and two anonymous reviewers. My work on this paper was supported by grants from the Lilly En- dowment (#1996 0184–000) and Santa Clara Uni- versity’s Leavey School of Business, and was com- pleted while I was a Visiting Scholar at the Hoover Institution. 2 The study of religion has enjoyed salience and legitimacy within sociology, psychology, anthropol- ogy, history, and (to a lesser extent) political sci- ence for many decades. Journals that specialize in the social–scientific study of religion include the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion , Sociol- ogy of Religion (formerly called Sociological Analysis ), the Review of Religious Research , Social Compass , and the Journal of Church and State .
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