How Important Are School Curricula for a Country's Development? VeryA RESEARCH PROJECT BY MARA SQUICCIARINI WINS THE YOUNG ITALIAN ECONOMIST AWARD 2018
During the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914), as technology became skill-intensive and human capital became crucial for industrial development, the French government decided to introduce technical education in primary schools. In the same time period, the Catholic Church promoted an anti-scientific and conservative agenda, and opposed the adoption of the technological curriculum.
This is not the setting of an historical novel, but the premise of Devotion and Development: Religiosity, Education, and Economic Progress in 19th-Century France, a paper by Mara Squicciarini, Assistant professor at the Department of Economics. The paper granted her the Young Italian Economist Award 2018 for the best study presented by an under-35 scholar at the annual meeting of the Società Italiana degli Economisti (SIE, the Italian Economists Society). Marta Squicciarini used data collected from primary and secondary sources to perform an analysis at the French department level. She compared data on industrialization and schooling collected by the French government with seven indicators of religiosity at the local level, the main being the percentage of priests who confirmed loyalty to the Catholic Church.
“Before choosing whether to accept or reject the oath of allegiance to the Civil Constitution, the clergymen needed the approval of the local community. It was some sort of referendum. We can use it as a measure of religiosity, together with data on church attendance or the number of readers to the Catholic newspaper par excellence, La Croix”.
Professor Squicciarini showed that the more religious districts had lower economic development not before, but after 1870. The more religious areas saw a slower introduction of the technical curriculum. “This story teaches us that the role of human capital, that is school enrollment rate, is important, but the curriculum is what really matters. The intensity of cultural factors, such as religion, are crucial. Religion is not always a barrier to economic growth, but it can slow it down”.
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