Matt Lowe (University of British Columbia), "Religious Revival and Social Order"
Cultural beliefs usually evolve slowly, but during times of religious revival, beliefs change rapidly. During the two-year Welsh Revival of 1904-5, roughly 6% of the adult population converted to Christianity, after decades of stable religiosity. This religious shock was temporary, with church membership returning to pre-Revival levels five years later. I report three main findings. First, church growth during the Revival was higher in parishes dominated by new mining industry. Second, comparing Wales with neighboring England, the Revival led to a reduction in aggregate crime by 5 to 12%. This effect is driven by much larger reductions in violent crime and drunkenness, considered a major social ill at the time. Third, despite temporary effects of the Revival on church membership, effects on crime persist, suggesting an enduring shift in social norms. Collectively, these results provide support for Fogel's theory of America's Great Awakenings: economic change predicts religious revival and revival brings social change.
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