Macrohistory Seminar – Ludger Woessmann (Ludwig Maximilian University & IZA Institute of Labor Economics) Can Schools Change Religious Attitudes? Evidence from German State Reforms of Compulsory Religious Education 

Event details

  • | Thursday, April 4
  • 12:15 PM
  • Kaiserplatz 7-9, 4th floor, Room 4.006

Can Schools Change Religious Attitudes? Evidence from German State Reforms of Compulsory Religious Education. 

The question whether churches should have a place in public schools to teach religious education has been the subject of fierce disputes in many countries throughout history. Yet little is known about whether compulsory religious education in fact affects people’s religiosity in the long run. We argue that the different timing of reforms that abandoned compulsory religious education across German states provide plausibly exogenous variation in individuals’ exposure to compulsory religious education. Our event-study approach shows that, conditional on state and birth-year fixed effects, the termination of compulsory religious education led to a significant reduction in reported religiosity, personal prayer, and church membership of affected students in adulthood. Falsification tests show that the reforms are not related to non-religious school outcomes. Beyond religious attitudes, the reform also reduced males’ conservative attitudes towards gender roles.

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