Not the opium of the people: Income and secularisation in a panel of Prussian counties 1886-1911


The authors construct a unique panel of income and Protestant church attendance for six waves of up to 175 Prussian counties spanning 1886-1911; to study the interplay between religion and the economy. In particular income levels and religious participation. Their unique database on historical church attendance stems from the practice of the Protestant Church in Germany to count the number of participations in Holy Communion every year, which Hölscher (2001) gathered at the church-district (Kirchenkreis) level from regional archives covering modern Germany. The Sacrament Statistics (Abendmahlsstatistik) stem from a uniform annual survey organized by the Statistical Central Office at the Protestant Higher Church Council in Berlin from 1880 (with precursors) to World War II. Data collection was done by the parish priests on a preprinted form following uniform surveying directives. Regional Consistories combined these parish data into registers at the level of church districts, which usually comprised 10-20 adjacent parishes. Their main indicator of church attendance is the number of participations in Holy Communion divided by the number of Protestants in a district. Our income data refer to the average annual income of male elementary-school teachers, available every five years from 1886 to 1911 for all Prussian counties (Kreise) from Education Censuses (Galloway (2007)). Their dataset covers an unbalanced panel of 175 territorial entities (“counties”) in 1886-1911. This sample of Prussian counties constitutes the intersection between end-of-19 -century Prussia (for which income data are available) and modern Germany (for which church attendance data are available) and is thus not necessarily representative of Prussia or of Germany. To this dataset, we merge cross-sectional data for Prussian counties used in Becker and Woessmann (2009).

The data source for church attendance is Hölscher (2001) based on Sacrament Statistics. The Protestant Regional Churches of Germany conducted annual surveys of “Expressions of Churchly Life” between 1880 (with precursors) and World War II. Their main indicator of church attendance is the “sacrament participation” (Hölscher (2001)), measured as the number of participations in Holy Communion divided by the number of Protestants in a church district. Hölscher kindly provided the authors with digital versions of the data as published in the Data Atlas. After assigning IDs to every church district (Kirchenkreis) and cross-checking the data, they combined the data into one panel dataset. The data source for teacher income: Galloway (2007) based on Education Censuses. The data are drawn from the Galloway (2007) Prussia Database and are based on the following volumes of the Preussische Statistik: Volume 101, pp. 2-391 (for 1886); Volume 120, part II, pp. 2-313 (for 1891); Volume 151, part II, pp. 2-315 (for 1896); Volume 176, part III, pp. 2-485 (for 1901); Volume 209, part III, pp. 2- 513 (for 1906); and Volume 231, part II, pp. 2-599 (for 1911). The data were collected by the Prussian Statistical Office and reported at the level of administrative counties (Kreise). Teacher income data are available for all Prussian counties in all the years 1886, 1891, 1896, 1901, 1906, and 1911. There are two changes in how teacher income is reported over time. First, in 1886 and 1891, teacher income covers only direct wage payments, but not extras such as housing allowances and any other allowances. From 1896 onwards, data include all components of income. To make data consistent over time, we pre-multiply direct wage payments in 1886 and 1891 by the county-specific ratio of total income over (only) wage payments observed in 1896. In 1911, income is only reported as total income of male and female elementary- school teachers combined, whereas for all other years both genders are reported separately. In 1911, we impute income of male elementary-school teachers by pre-multiplying total income of elementary-school teachers by the county-specific share of male teachers in total income observed in 1906. The control variables used in Table A3 are taken from the Prussian Population Census in 1871. First used in Becker and Woessmann (2009), who provide variable definitions and detailed documentation (see also iPEHD), they are based on Königliches Statistisches Bureau, Die Gemeinden und Gutsbezirke des Preussischen Staates und ihre Bevölkerung: Nach den Urmaterialien der allgemeinen Volkszählung vom 1. December 1871 (Berlin: Verlag des Königlichen Statistischen Bureaus, 1874). They merge the church attendance and income data by assigning the income data, available at the level of the administrative county, to that church district (for which they have church attendance data) which contains the capital of the administrative county (same for the 1871 control variables available for administrative counties). In cases where several county capitals are located in the same district, they aggregated the county data up to the church district level (taking population- weighted averages of income data). To make regional entities comparable over time in face of territorial changes during our period of observation, they aggregated church-district and county data up to the highest level at which consistency over time is given.

Metadata Access
Creator Becker, S, Monash University; Woessmann, L, University of Munich
Publisher UK Data Service
Publication Year 2020
Funding Reference Economic and Social Research Council
Rights Sascha O. Becker, Monash University. Ludger Woessmann, University of Munich; The Data Collection is available from an external repository. Access is available via Related Resources.
OpenAccess true
Resource Type Numeric
Discipline Economics; History; Humanities; Social and Behavioural Sciences
Spatial Coverage Prussia