Missionaries and Social Capital

December 6, 2018 | 13:30 h - 14:30 h

ZEF Colloquium with Dr. Anselm Rink, assistant professor of political economy at the graduate school of decision sciences in Konstanz (Germany).

About the speaker: Anselm Rink is an assistant professor of political economy at the graduate school of decision sciences in Konstanz. He received his PhD in 2017 at Columbia University after receiving degrees from Columbia University in Political Science and London School of Economics in Government and Economics. His publications center on the intersection between politics and society and focus on topics such as ”Religious Appeals in Conflict Zones” and “Multiple Dimensions of Bureaucratic Discrimination.” Find more information about Dr. Rink on his <link https: anselmrink.com external-link-new-window internal link in current>Website.

Abstract: A large number of studies has linked Protestant missionaries to increases in social capital. Others point out that missionaries divide communities along religious lines. To this date, rigorous empirical evidence is scarce. This paper presents evidence from a pre-registered field experiment implemented in cooperation with a missionary group in South Sudan. A local Protestant mission randomly assigned 60 local villages to a two-week intensive evangelism intervention. Using survey and behavioral evidence gathered after the missionaries leave, I find no differences in a pre-registered aggregate social capital index across treatment and control villages. However, when analyzing the sub-components of the index, I document that group-level indicators of social capital are lower, while individual-level indicators of social capital are higher in treated villages. The findings imply that missionaries are akin to a network interruption. They undermine structural determinants of social capital, but increase individual-level pro-social behavior. Pronounced negative treatment effects on attitudes toward local cultural traditions and beliefs underline the network interruption interpretation.



Chiara Kofol

Dr. Chiara Kofol