“Protestantism and Effort Expenditure on the Battlefield: Soldier-Level Evidence from World War II"

Ahmed Skali, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology


"Can religious beliefs explain effort provision in salient settings? We track 15,421 soldiers in Nazi Germany’s armies from the start of World War II in September 1939 to the surrender of Germany in May 1945. We proxy effort with military decorations, promotions, injuries, and fatalities. Our cross-sectional
and soldier-by-month panel (N = 659,189) results indicate that Protestants out-perform Catholics, and Calvinists out-perform Lutherans. We also find that Calvinists, whose belief system favours early resolution of uncertainty about salvation, exert more effort early on in the war. Differences in commitment to the
Nazi ideology and discrimination against Catholic soldiers do not appear to drive our results. Our results suggest an important role for the horizontal transmission of work ethic-enhancing norms of behaviour: Catholics from historically Protestant districts exert more effort than Catholics from Catholic districts."

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