ECB study finds Catholics more inclined to share personal wealth


FRANKFURT — Catholics are more likely to support government intervention in the economy than Protestants and also have a stronger preference for sharing wealth equally, a European Central Bank study said.

The research paper also said Max Weber’s theories about the Protestant work ethic were supported by the results of the study and that they apply more widely than thought, including in the choice of political institutions and in explaining income inequality. “We do find Protestant municipalities to exhibit clearly higher income inequality,” the study by Christoph Batzen and Frank Betz said.

“Relative to Roman Catholicism, Reformed Protestantism has curbed preferences for redistribution and for government intervention in the economy,” it said, and added the impact of religion on income was not as significant. “Religion is not just, as Karl Marx would have us believe, ‘People’s Opium,’ but can, by its own force, significantly change people’s preferences, both self-regarding and social ones,” the ECB study said. The research paper, published on the ECB’s Internet site over the weekend, but not officially endorsed by it, comes on the heels of a Vatican paper that called for sweeping reforms of the world economy and the creation of an ethical, global authority to regulate financial markets.

The ECB study was based on data from Swiss cantons of Fribourg and Vaud, the former Catholic and the latter Protestant.