DP14696 Driven by Institutions, Shaped by Culture: Human Capital and the Secularization of Marriage in Italy

Author(s): David de la Croix, Fabio Mariani, Marion Mercier
Publication Date: May 2020
Keyword(s): Divorce, Human Capital, Marriage, Secularization
JEL(s): I25, J12, N34, O4, Z12
Programme Areas: Economic History, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14696

We study the mechanisms behind the process of secularization and how they relate to human capital accumulation. We find a robust, positive correlation between human capital and secularization in marriage. Secularization is more responsive to education (i) in the presence of high levels of social capital and/or weak family ties, and (ii) following the legalization of divorce in 1971. To understand the mechanisms behind these results, we develop a theory of religiosity, education, and marriage choices, in which individuals who divorce face a relatively higher return to human capital compared to religious capital. Our theory suggests that a positive association between human capital and secularization can emerge across individuals (and localities) even in the absence of a direct effect of education on religiosity. Consistent with our empirical findings, the legalization of divorce plays a central role in unleashing the forces of secularization in marriage, and different patterns in the education--secularization nexus can be traced to different systems of incentives, as shaped by civic capital and family ties.