Crossing the Hajnal Line in Western Estonia: Understanding the Effect of Denomination on Demographic Behavior Through a Historical Natural Experiment

Alexey Shpenev , University of Pennsylvania

Social institutions play an important role in demographic behavior. However, their effects in historical populations have not been well studied. This paper uses data on the population of the Estonian island of Muhu to see the effects of denomination on demographic outcomes. A policy change prompting the rapid and exogenous conversion of Muhu inhabitants into Orthodoxy provides a chance for a causal analysis of a natural experiment. The preliminary results show significant differences for types of behavior that are directly controlled by the church (e.g. fertility) and a much higher role of the family for other outcomes (e.g. mortality).

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 126. Contemporary and Historical Fertility Transitions