Economics 452: Religion, Ethics, and Economics (of Inequality and Philanthropy) -- Spring 2023
Professor: Mahmoud A. El-Gamal
Classes: MW 2:00--3:15 KRF 125
Office Hours: M 12:30--1:30 KRF 429
TA: Xinhui Xu
This course is a research seminar on the interactions between religion, ethics, and economics. Traditional topics include empirical tests of classical theories such as the Durkheimian (Secularization) and Weberian (Protestant Ethic) hypotheses, as well as more recent models of the economics of religion and the economic effects of religiosity.
My goal this year is to have a strong emphasis on voluntary philanthropic giving and its relationship to ethics, religiosity and economics. Example questions include the following: How do we understand the relationship between religiosity, ethics and attitudes toward inequality? Does redistributive taxation crowd out private giving to disadvantaged groups? What is the relationship between religiosity and ethics (e.g. utilitarianism, often mistaken for egoism, which is an extreme form), on the one hand, and the "effective altruism" movement (which is super-utilitarian at another extreme), on the other?
Students will work in groups on small projects to replicate and/or extend empirical results in some of the readings that we will discuss throughout the semester. Student will also write individual term papers on topics of their choice subject to approval of the professor.
While supplementary readings are recommended (i.e. not required), some selected readings may prove helpful for your team projects and individual term papers.
I am experimenting with chatGPT to see how it can be incorporated in generating your project presentations and term papers. The software does a remarkable job producing R codes that will suffice for plotting and data analysis required for this course (for example, if I didn't know how to get data from a website, I'd do this, or if I didn't know how to produce a barplot, I'd do this). It can give you some ideas to pursue, and does a great job generating first draft paragraphs and sections, but unfortunately may include factual errors, citations to papers that don't exist, etc. Therefore, you will still have to use other AI tools such as search engines to find actual articles to cite, extract information from those papers to feed chatGPT, etc. AI use in the course is optional (but be forewarned, chatGPT is not always available).
An excellent source for data and term paper ideas: theArDA.
We will also explore data sources not included in theArDA during lectures and in group projects.
Tentative Recommended supplementary readings:
- Witham, Larry. Marketplace of the Gods: How Economics Explains Religion, Oxford University Press, 2010
- Bowles, Samuel. The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens, Yale University Press, 2016
- Kolm, Serge-Christophe and Jean Mercier Ythier (eds.) Handbook of The Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity: Foundations (Volume 1), Elsevier, 2006
- Scharf, Kimberley and Mirco Tonin (eds.) The Economics of Philanthropy, Donations and Fundraising, The MIT Press, 2018
- Week 1 -- January 9, 11: Economics of Religion Literature and Data
- Some readings used in lectures: SEP 2019, Iannaccone 1998, McCleary and Barro 2006, Iyer 2016, Elgin et al 2013
- Week 2 -- January 18: Economics of Philanthropy Literature and Data
- Some readings used in lectures: Alesina and Giuliano 2009, SEP 2020, Becker 1974, Andreoni 2006, Carnegie 1906, Roser et al 2022, Falk et al 2018
- Week 3 -- January 23, 25: Beckerian Economic Models of Religion & Philanthropy
- Some readings used in lectures: Azzi and Ehrenberg 1975, Iannaccone 1990, Barro and McCleary 2005, Iannaccone et al 1997, Voas et al 2002, Ekelund et al 2002, Auten et al 2002, Saez et al 2012, Brown and Lankford 1992, Freeman 1997, Duquette 2018
- Week 4 -- January 30, Feb 1: Ethics and Economics Theory and Evidence
- Some readings used in lectures: Bowles 2000, Bowles 2008, Henrich et al. 2001, Henrich et al. 2010, Fehr et al. 2006, Bruni and Sugden 2013, Putnam 2003, Glaeser et al. 2002, Putnam 2007, Algan and Cahuc 2013
- Week 5 -- February 6, 8: Group Project Presentations I
- Team projects presentations (assignment will be posted and discussed early in Week 3; technical required element: difference in difference analysis)
- Week 6 -- February 13, 15: Religions, Ethics and Philanthropy
- Some readings used in lectures: Arrow 1972, Falk et al 2016 (plus online supplement), Falk et al 2018 (plus online supplement)
- Week 7 -- February 20, 22: Religion and Economic Attitudes
- Some readings used in lectures: MacCulloch 2005, Scheve and Stasvage 2006, Gaskins et al 2013, Gallup and WVS codebooks, Guizo et al 2003, Guizo et al 2006, van Hoorn and Maseland 2013, Gruber 2005
- Week 8 -- Feb 27, March 1: Group Project Presentations II
- Core bibliography, data set, and summary of proposed individual papers due
- Second set of team projects presentations (assignment will be posted and discussed early in Week 6, technical required element: merging data from multiple sources)
- Week 9 -- March 6, 8: Macroeconomic Effects of Religion
- Some readings used in lectures: Ekelund et al 2002, Becker and Woessman 2009, Berggren and Bjornskov 2011, Gorodnichenko and Roland 2011,
- Week 10 -- March 20, 22: Microeconomic Effects of Religion
- Some readings used in lectures: Chen and Li 2009, Emmenegger and Manow 2014, Fisman et al 2015, Anderson and Melor 2009, Hilary and Hui 2009, Kumar et al 2011, Tan and Vogel 2008, Tan 2006
- Week 11 -- March 27, 29: Group Project Presentations III
- Third set of team projects presentations (assignment will be posted and discussed early in Week 9, technical required element: using instrumental variables to address endogeneity)
- Week 12 -- April 3, 5: Individual Student presentations (term paper synopses)
- Week 13 -- April 10, 12: Individual Student presentations (term paper synopses)
- Week 14 -- April 17, 19: Individual Student presentations (term paper synopses)
- Class participation: 20%
- Team project presentations: 30%
- Individual term paper presentation: 30%
- Term paper: 20%
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