The Role of Missionaries in Social and Institutional Change
| Peter Klein |
First Brayden, then Fabio. Today another talented young sociologist, Robert Woodberry of UT-Austin, gave a research workshop in my building. Bob is leading a massive project to construct a comprehensive dataset of all Protestant and Catholic missionary activity from 1813 to 1968. Some of the data are here. Bob presented a working paper (not yet online) on the affect of missionary activity on the spread of democracy in the global south. Once Protestant missionary activity (missionaries per capita, length of time in host country, percent of local population evangelized) is controlled for, the usual predictors of democracy (British colonial origin, location, economic variables) drop out of regression models as statistically significant. One implication is that studies on the effect of religion on economic performance (e.g., Stulz and Williamson 2003) should control more carefully for the precise charactersitics of religious activity (not simply “Protestant,” “Catholic,” etc.).