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The Chosen FewHow Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492$
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Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691144870

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691144870.001.0001

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The Economics of Hebrew Literacy in a World of Farmers

The Economics of Hebrew Literacy in a World of Farmers

(p.80) Chapter 4 The Economics of Hebrew Literacy in a World of Farmers
The Chosen Few

Maristella Botticini

Zvi Eckstein

Princeton University Press

This chapter presents an economic theory that describes the choices regarding religious affiliation and the investment in children's literacy and education in a world populated by Jewish and non-Jewish farmers. This theory yields two main implications. First, because individuals differ in religious preferences, skills, costs of education, and earnings, some Jewish farmers invest in their children's religious literacy whereas others do not. Second, Jewish farmers who find it too costly to obey the norms of Judaism, including the costly norm requiring them to send their sons to school, convert to other religions. If the economy remains mainly agrarian, literate people cannot find urban and skilled occupations in which their investment in literacy and education yields positive economic returns. As a result, the Jewish population keeps shrinking and becoming more literate. In the long run, Judaism cannot survive in a subsistence farming economy because of the process of conversions.

Keywords:   religious affiliation, children's literacy, education, Jewish farmers, religious preferences, Judaism, urban skilled occupations, farming economy, conversion

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