Religion, Division of Labor and Conflict: Anti-Semitism in Germany over 600 Years

Recognition Program

Authors: Sascha O. Becker and Luigi Pascali

American Economic Review, Vol. 109, No 5, 1764–1804, May, 2019

We study the role of economic incentives in shaping the co-existence of Jews, Catholics and Protestants, using novel data from Germany for 1,000+ cities. The Catholic usury ban and higher literacy rates gave Jews a specific advantage in the moneylending sector. Following the Protestant Reformation (1517), the Jews lost these advantages in regions that became Protestant. We show 1) a change in the geography of anti-Semitism with persecutions of Jews and anti-Jewish publications becoming more common in Protestant areas relative to Catholic areas; 2) a more pronounced change in cities where Jews had already established themselves as moneylenders. These findings are consistent with the interpretation that, following the Protestant Reformation, Jews living in Protestant regions were exposed to competition with the Christian majority, especially in moneylending, leading to an increase in anti-Semitism.

This paper originally appeared as Barcelona School of Economics Working Paper 1060
This paper is acknowledged by the Barcelona School of Economics Recognition Program