Thursday, September 16, 2010

Are Clergy Part of the Homo Economicus Clan?

Are clergy part of the homo economicus clan? Do they respond to resources constraints, incentives, and opportunity costs?  A new study  sheds some light on this issue by examining  whether individuals considering seminary enrollment respond to something more than just a 'higher calling.'  Specifically, this study assesses whether prospective seminarians are responsive to wage differentials and swings in the business cycle.  Here is the abstract:
Heeding the Call: Seminary Enrollment and the Business Cycle by D.R. Hughes, D.T. Mitchell, and D.P. Molinari
We examine a panel of divinity school enrollments to explore the motivations of prospective clergy considering post-graduate training in preparation for the ministry. Employing the fixed-effects within estimator allows us to see pecuniary motivations while controlling for the differences between types of divinity school and denomination. We find decisions by prospective clergy to enroll in seminary are responsive to changes in the business cycle as well as salaries. Our results reinforce the view that variation in opportunity costs associated with business cycles plays a significant role in the timing of human capital formation even for those with mostly nonmonetary motivations.
So yes, prospective seminarians are responsive on the margin to market signals. They too are part of the homo economicus clan.  These findings are consistent with those studies that show there is a countercyclical component to religiosity.

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