The price of religiosity: Enticing young Haredi men into secular academic studies

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Standard economic theory cannot explain why so few Haredi (ultra-orthodox) men attain college degrees in Israel, despite the significant economic returns to such degrees. In addition to economic variables, this article introduces a combination of social and behavioral characteristics, such as religious identity, into the individual choice process. This, in turn, enables us to evaluate a possible trade-off between economic benefits associated with a college degree and the corresponding loss of religious identity in the decision of young ultra-orthodox Israeli men to attain a college degree. In the language of standard economics, we simply ask: What is the economic price Haredi men are willing to pay for their religious beliefs? Utilizing case-control sampling and analysis techniques, we collected retrospective data on Haredi men who study in academic higher education institutes (N = 410) and matched them to Haredi men who do not attend college (N = 310). Our logit econometric model indicates that Haredi men, even those with extreme orthodox beliefs, respond to economic incentives. However, our model indicates that the size of the incentives required to entice academic studies increases with the intensity of religious beliefs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-151
Number of pages23
JournalRationality and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the editor of Rationality and Society and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Sociology Departmental seminar at the University of Haifa. The authors thank participants in this seminar for helpful comments. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • Educational choice
  • religiosity
  • retrospective case control
  • ultra-orthodox (Haredi) Jews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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