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Research Setting

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Part of the Contributions to Economics book series (CE)


How does Protestantism influence competitiveness and transparency compared to Roman Catholicism in Europe and the Americas? This book answers the research question by applying a “Mixed Methods approach to Grounded Theory” (MM-GT). This chapter expands on the research aims, research question, hypotheses, and research model in this study. The research model synthesises understanding and serves as a rationale for the entire book. The model exhibits the main exogenous theoretical determinants of corruption and prosperity, which are tested empirically.


  • Research aims
  • Research question
  • Hypotheses
  • Research model
  • Mixed-Methods (MM)
  • Grounded Theory (GT)

This chapter is divided into four sections. Section 2.1 details the research aims, and Section 2.2 presents the main research question. Section 2.3 formulates the general hypotheses. Section 2.4 presents the research model, which synthesises understanding and serves as a rationale for the entire book. The model exhibits the main exogenous theoretical determinants of corruption and prosperity, which are tested empirically. Exogenous long-term factors include culture, religion, and environment. Given the aim of this research, particular emphasis is placed on religion (Catholic and Protestant; institutional and adherents).

2.1 Research Aim and Focus

This study applies grounded theory to expand existing understanding of the relation between two of the world’s main Christian religious systems—Roman Catholicism and Protestantism—and two key prosperity indicators (corruption and competitiveness). It also explores the intrinsic factors potentially enabling this relation to be established and perpetuated.

To achieve these aims, I adopt a hybrid (combined) approach involving Grounded Theory (GT) and four case studies from a mixed-methods (MM) perspective. In fact, “MM-GT works well in connecting theory generation with theory testing, linking theory and practice” (Johnson et al., 2010). The resultant theory pursues an “emancipatory ‘knowledge interest’” (Fairclough, 2001, p. 230; Habermas, 1972) and thus challenges established approaches to prosperity problems (see prosperity theories, Chap. 5).

2.2 Research Question

A direct relation between political power and the power of the Roman Catholic Church-State has persisted throughout Latin America since the Conquest (Gill, 1998; Gill, 2013; Levine, 1981; Munevar, 2008). These institutional relations can be traced back the European colonisers (Acemoglu & Robinson, 2012; Engerman & Sokoloff, 2002; Woodberry, 2012).

Consequently, this study explores the influence of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism on corruption and competitiveness in present-day Europe and the Americas. Previous scholarship has already highlighted the relevance of this topic. For instance, Hjelm (2014) observed:

If ever there was a time for a critical, engaged sociology of religion, this would be it. Yet, the paradigmatic discussions (as represented by textbook knowledge) still revolve around the question of disappearance versus resurgence of religion, with little or no attention paid to religions’ role in reproducing and transforming inequality (Hjelm, 2014, p. 856).

Corruption and competitiveness are the so-called prosperity indicators. Reviewing these indicators in Europe and the Americas (Chap. 4 and Appendices 1–5) reveals that historically Protestant countries generally perform better than predominantly Roman Catholic ones. Based on this evidence, the main question of this study is: How does Protestantism influence competitiveness and transparency compared to Roman Catholicism in Europe and the Americas?

2.3 Hypotheses

This section presents the general hypotheses of this study. Specific configurational empirical expectations are introduced in Part III.

Christianity has been central to Western civilisation. Yet the diverse historical trajectories of the various Christian denominations have first established and subsequently determined different sets of societal norms and institutions. This book explores the influence of Christianity on prosperity in present-day Europe and the Americas.

It posits two main hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1

Roman Catholicism has negatively impacted prosperity (competitiveness and transparency) in Europe and the Americas.

Hypothesis 2

The Protestant Reformation has positively impacted prosperity (competitiveness and transparency) in Europe and the Americas.

The general assumption, however, is that religion might work in combination with other long-term persistence factors triggering prosperity, i.e. the desired outcome (see research model, Fig. 2.1). Other prominent theoretical triggers of prosperity are institutions and legal traditions, which are also implicitly linked to my hypotheses on religion (i.e. state religion, see Chap. 8). However, environmental factors are exogenous (i.e. not directly related to the first two hypotheses) and therefore require a separate hypothesis:

Hypothesis 3

Environmental performance positively impacts prosperity in Europe and the Americas (i.e. moderating or moderated by the impact of religion).

This study investigates the influence of Christianity on prosperity within the framework of the sociology of religion. It therefore focuses mainly on the first two hypotheses.

2.4 Research Model

Originally published as “Research Model” in: Garcia Portilla, J. (2019). “Ye Shall Know Them by Their Fruits”: Prosperity and Institutional Religion in Europe and the Americas. Religions, 10(6), 362. MDPI AG. Retrieved from

© 2019 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

The research model considers the variables and factors discussed in this study to be interdependent. I take the model entirely and not residually and attach theoretical and empirical importance to all the variables (theories). Generally, the same factors (theories) that are associated with prosperity as a whole (i.e. GCI) are also associated with corruption in the literature (see Chaps. 3, 6 and 7).

Parts II and III (conceptual and theoretical background) break down the research model (Fig. 2.1) and explain its components and relations in different chapters. These explain some of the complex relations theoretically and concentrate on my principal variables of interest: religion and prosperity/corruption (see the subsections concentrating on Latin America). Some relations are not covered since they are less relevant to the purposes of this study (e.g. environmental influences on culture and vice versa).

Fig. 2.1
figure 1

Research model (Source: Author’s figure). Note: Arrows and numbers indicate potential causal relations, which are explored in the following chapters (see the corresponding capital letters and the numbers between parenthesis in the headings and subheadings referring to the relations in this figure)

Figure 2.1 (see below) synthesises the logic underlying this study by interrelating the variables of interest (i.e. conditions in QCA). It is general and thus does not include all research variables. Some of the variables or conditions are embedded within others and vice versa (see Appendices 1–5 for details). The figure also represents the research model structuring this study:


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García Portilla, J. (2022). Research Setting. In: “Ye Shall Know Them by Their Fruits”. Contributions to Economics. Springer, Cham.

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