Religious Free Riders: The Impact of Market Share

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Abstract:

Free riders can be a problem in large congregations. Many studies have shown that large congregations attract members who are less active and who contribute smaller sums of money. We extend this literature by studying the impact of denominational market share on free-riding behavior. We hypothesize that people who want the benefit of a church affiliation without contributing to its mission may be drawn to the more popular denominations in their region. For example, in an area dominated by Lutherans, membership in a Lutheran congregation may offer potential free riders more social acceptance and connections. However, where Lutherans are in a distinct minority, free riders may perceive less benefit in being Lutheran. If so, only those who are serious about being a Lutheran are likely to join and free-riding behavior should be less evident. Tests using data for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) congregations are consistent with our hypothesis.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2006.00313.x

Affiliations: 1: Stephanie M. Brewer is Associate Professor of Economics at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705., Email: smjozef@iup.edu 2: James J. Jozefowicz is Associate Professor of Economics at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705., Email: jimjozef@iup.edu 3: Robert J. Stonebraker is Associate Professor of Economics at Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC 29733., Email: stonebrakerr@winthrop.edu

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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