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Experiment that ended in 1767 still linked to higher incomes, education levels (washingtonpost.com)
304 points by a_w 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments

I'm from that region in Argentina, my state is called Misiones (Misions) because is the area where those where concentrated, the missing piece is that it was heavily populated by European migrants in 3 waves: beginning of 19 century, post WWI and post WWII; the same happened on the Paraguay and Brazil neighboring areas, this lead to a rapid development of the whole region, which continues today. Now, sadly, most of that development didn't include the guarani tribes that today still live in poverty. The only aspect that seems to remain in guarani culture from those times is music, playing guitar & violin, everything else, construction, writing, etc, is gone, this includes religion.

Hi from Buenos Aires! The population of the zone has a mixed ancestry. There are a lot of small details that still survive, like the mate. Also, there are a lot of small details in the language of the zone, the pronunciation is slightly different (or very different, it's difficult to understand some of the people), there are many loaned words and expressions.

I'm not sure about the religion, but my family is from Jujuy (the part of Argentina near Bolivia) and most of the people there is officially Catholic but there is a lot of mix with the prehispanic religions, so I guess that in Misiones there is a lot of mix of with the guarani religion. (Actually, the official Catholic religion has a lot of loaned parts from the previous European religions.)

> The only aspect that seems to remain in guarani culture from those times is music, playing guitar & violin...

Those are both European instruments. There might be Guarani themes or styles mixed in, but those are not traditional (pre-European) instruments. Likely even the style of music is extremely heavily influenced by the colonists if the “traditional” instruments are now European.

Colonization doesn’t leave a lot of indigenous culture intact.

> Valencia didn’t just rule out other possible explanations. He also established a few reasons that areas near the missions have tended to succeed at higher rates, even today.

It's known that these areas had four immigration phases, from 1820 to 1960. The monarchy (then the government) began to stimulate the arrival of Europeans because of the vast land and good climate. The monarchy even used agressive propaganda and megalomanic promises. Our recent elected president came from one of those european immigration waves, from Italian Veneto region in 1888.

There's a huge italian and german presence in this southern region (as well as in Argentina and neighbors), and also great natural resources that allowed agriculture and family farming to those european experienced farmers. This southern region today produces most of Brazil's grains, oilseeds (and exports).

So in a way, knowledge, higher incomes and education levels were imported. Brazil is full of curious phenomena, and it deserves more sociological study, being a young country.

Thanks, this seems pretty damning for the study.

Any significant post-1767 immigration (and especially from some of the most developed parts of the world) would easily produce bigger effects than this claimed persistence from the Jesuits.

How much do we know about the spatial distribution of such people, and their descendants? I mean not just southern Brazil, but it would be nice to see if there are clumps... especially if one was centred on where the missions were. Perhaps just filtering census data for German surnames would work? I bet this would correlate with literacy.

I agree with you. We have a more stong Guaraní presence in Bolivia and Paraguay today, about 280 thousand people living in four countries from a study in 2017 [1], which 85 thousand living in Brazil, which is neglegible comparing to the population numbers in that regions.

The reality is that those communities are very poor, having even cases of institutionalized racism, where children were separated from their parents at their Guaraní and Kaiowá communities by the brazilian state and sent to child safety services, atrocious. [2]

[1] https://mobilizacaonacionalindigena.wordpress.com/2017/04/27...

[2] https://cimi.org.br/2018/03/racismo-institucional-justifican...

Are you saying that a majority, possibly a huge majority, of the people arrived after 1767? Or rather, that a huge majority now are the descendants of people who arrived then?

Then perhaps I should ask the reverse question, about which districts still have much Guaraní and Kaiowá presence -- is there perhaps a map? If things are as bad for them as you say (which I can fully believe, sadly) then all you would need is for them not to be perfectly uniformly distributed, to produce what this paper sees.

The paper's hypothesis then seems increasingly crazy. Did the Jesuits do something magical to the soil, so that the subsequent inhabitants of that area would be more literate?

I would be interested in a similar study done in central Virginia. My county here closed the public schools for five years in the 60s in order to avoid integrating, and after they reopened most kids who'd been out never went back. Many are still alive today and still live here.

But more importantly, so do their grandkids. And anecdotally, there is still a strong bias against the usefulness of school (leading to lack of attendance, and dropping out) among kids descended from the lost generation, that isn't present even just a few miles away in the next counties over.

I don't think this has been quantitatively studied, but if the data backs up the anecdotal impression, it would essentially bolster the argument reported in the OP.

> But more importantly, so do their grandkids. And anecdotally, there is still a strong bias against the usefulness of school (leading to lack of attendance, and dropping out) among kids descended from the lost generation, that isn't present even just a few miles away in the next counties over.

I live in a rural area in a Southern state. My school never closed down to avoid integration, as far as I'm aware at least, but there is still a strong bias against education by those whose parents dropped out. Some have overcome that and see the importance of education, but I have many students who don't, because their parents are doing alright (though I bet things are worse than the students are aware of), so they can do the same thing too with only a high school education, or by dropping out altogether. They don't understand how different it is, but I, too, would love to see it quantified.

I work in the education sphere, and this is not too surprising: one of the most significant factors in students completing more optional advanced education programs are familial and peer expectations, which are then instilled in that student to in turn pass on to their own children later in life. Students from families where they are the first generation to go to college, for example, generally have lower average outcomes. Although some of the variance in those outcomes are due to lower average socioeconomic status rather than familial expectations.

> Although some of the variance in those outcomes are due to lower average socioeconomic status rather than familial expectations.

I’m not sure if it is lower socioeconomic status, or just inability to coach. It is hard to give advice about how to get into grad school or how to interview for an engineering job or even how to study engineering undergraduate classes if your experience is, say, being foreman of a framing crew. No disrespect, the trades are important and undervalued, but the experience-based advice you have to offer is in a different realm.

I experienced this myself. My dad went into the family business, and had another job offer waiting (in a small town) when they sold that without having to be interviewed. I never learned how to really network or do stuff like that in college, and it definitely impacted my opportunities and such. I never even realized how important it was until I went to an "elite" college, where it seemed like all the other (read: those whose parents had to, or were raised much more well-off than I was) students knew how to. I was kinda at a lost because the university often assumed we knew it too, and so let it go by without necessarily teaching us.

I think it's far more complicated than that although environment plays a big role, on those that are susceptible to it.

For example, in my AP Calculus honors class was mostly East Asian high school kids, in a school famous for gang violence (class of 05, I recognized their faces in the newspapers), started joining ethnic street gangs during this time. Like this Vietnamese dude was a high achiever like the rest of us tryna get into a good university, then the cops showed up and arrested for attempted murder for bashing some white kid's head in the hallway with a baseball bat. It was like a gang initiation thing, I hear many many other such incidents. Honestly, I was tense all the time. It was only when I was threatened with a deadly weapon over a scuffle, did I realize what I was dealing with. I asked that classmate why he attacked the student in the hallway, he replied

"cuz he was askin for it"

Pretty shocking since not long ago we were studying calculus together. Well, I hope the thug life was worth a permanent criminal record that permanently bars you from partaking in the mainstream economy.

I would expect that it's far more than just 'educational attitudes' - it's everything about life perspective, behaviour, habits, knowledge and high levels of conscientiousness etc.. Couple that with increased access to many things due to already-established economic background and you have generational success, I think.

Absolutely you're right, there's more to it than just parental & peer expectations. That's why there's still variance in outcomes despite the presence or lack of expectations. Another significant factor is what's been termed "grit", with multiple methods of measuring it, none perfect but still useful. There's no perfect way of determining long term outcomes, there's just too many confounding factors, and it's a chaotic system. It's why even "aptitude" tests like the SAT are actually very limited in the scope of what they claim to predict: not long term outcomes, only correlation with 1st year success in college, and imperfect at that (HS GPA is generally as powerful or more powerful than such tests, though predictive power is increased when both are used together.) And the further out in time you go, the weaker the "signal" is from such tests, the more you see variance in outcomes from the same initial conditions, due in part to those initial conditions capturing only a part of the picture, and due in part to the many intervening factors that happen after the initial conditions are observed.

Yes, agree with all that. Even grit though is variable and contextual. Some people have family and sports grit but not business grit. Also changes over time. I used to be pure grit, now only on work days :)

Here's one of the "grit" measurements that's been shown to correlate with education outcomes. However, I use in in some of my own research on students who transfer from one college to another, and didn't find it statistically significant in predicting short term outcomes. (I still need to revisit it to see if it is more predictive for longer term outcomes, one of the two hypothesis I had for the work) Anyway, this link will let you obtain your own "grit" score, for whatever that's worth: https://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/

As a child of parents who either didn't go to college, or were the first in the entire extended family and didn't graduate: This rings true.

I was always encouraged to go to school. It's important they said. You need it to get a good job.

BUT! The teachers are stupid. Don't trust them too much. They dont know everything. If they were really that good, they'd be doing it, not teaching. Always question what they tell you, verify things on your own. If something doesn't make sense, speak up and get them to explain. You'll soon see how shallow their knowledge really is.

And don't worry. You're never gonna need any of this in real life. Grades are important! Get good grades. But also don't worry coz nobody is gonna care as soon as you're out of school.

Mixed signals right?

I never graduated and I like to think I got everything I needed out of college except a piece of paper.

PS: In high school I was everyone's worst nightmare. When I was engaged, I'd ask a lot of questions and derail the instruction. When I thought your subject was stupid, I'd just not participate, avoid any and all homework, and get straight Fs.

The straight Fs in particular had to have been frustrating to teachers because I'd then learn enough of their entire year's worth of curriculum in 2 weeks to get a D and pass the class.

PPS: My mum eventually did go to college when I was in college. She graduated before me. Still says it's useless IRL.

> BUT! The teachers are stupid. Don't trust them too much. They dont know everything. If they were really that good, they'd be doing it, not teaching. Always question what they tell you, verify things on your own. If something doesn't make sense, speak up and get them to explain. You'll soon see how shallow their knowledge really is.

I loathe this attitude. I'm a teacher, and I decided to teach because I (thought that I) enjoy teaching, not because I couldn't be doing something else. This is true for several of the teachers I know. I know some who passed up on being doctors, or lawyers or other professions to become teachers because they enjoyed it, and liked doing it more.

Yes, some are stupid, but you're painting with broad strokes and, honestly, it's not easy to see why we have a cult of anti-intellectualism in America because of how common this attitude is. A lot of them have thorough knowledge to explain something, but the student doesn't yet have all the requisite knowledge to understand...Like when someone asks me why, when we study perpendicular lines in Algebra, it has a negative reciprocal slope. They don't know trig identities; they're not at a level to understand the various proofs behind it. So when I tell them not to worry about it, that doesn't mean my knowledge is "shallow".

"I'm a teacher, and I decided to teach because I (thought that I) enjoy teaching, not because I couldn't be doing something else.... I know some who passed up on being doctors, or lawyers..."

It would be nice if doctors became doctors just for the joy of helping people, not all the money and social status. Teachers work with difficult kids and put in the time to make the world a better place with zero pay [if you factor out cost of living].

Most that I know of are fine with the pay (I mean, of course we would all like it to be higher!) because they know they're making a difference, like you said. What always gets me is people like GGP who basically claims that teachers must be stupid, or else they'd be doing something more lucrative. That attitude upsets me, as many teachers actually want to help, and passed up on more lucrative and easier jobs.

As someone who has sort of "fallen into" the education field, I can only say this: If any of the interviews I've had, or the resumes I've sent, had turned into job offers more lucrative and reliable than education, I'd be doing something else. You aren't the only teacher who does it because you enjoy it; I'm not the only one who does it because nothing else is available to me. I am evidence of the axiom, "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" - if you aren't, good on you.

It sounds like your parents gave you great advice and instilled independent thinking into you (and realistic expectations for what education can provide).

There are a lot of people out there who did great in school but never learned to think for themselves. Some of those people are now saddled in debt and don't have the skills to dig their way out.

I agree, it was great long term advice. But for a rebellious irresponsible and immature teenager it created a lot of problems.

A better lesson would have been that teachers are a resource. You can go to them with questions when you're stuck. You can use them for guidance. College professors especially.

I was in a similar position (for different reasons) and it also created a lot of problems when I was a teenager. I'm not sure if the alternative would have been better though. I find a lot of things that caused problems in school ended up being very valuable in my professional life. Mainly questioning everything. It is best paired with some tact though, and that took a long time to develop.

I find the conclusion of the article to be surprising.

In modern times, we understand that access to markets is the determining factor in income. It is why those who live in cities can typically make more than those who live in rural areas, and why – as you alluded to – those with family connections to business find themselves making more than those who don't have an "in." It is even why people strongly advocate for limiting competition (through unions, for example) in a marketplace in order to increase incomes (or other benefits) of those who are in the inner circle.

One would naturally conclude that missions were correlated with access to markets, perhaps due to springing up where markets were already strong, but the article seems to have determined that education caused the higher incomes back then. Something that hasn't proven true in modern times, where incomes have held stagnant over the years for groups that have seen an increase in college attainment.

"access to markets is the determining factor in income"

No, it's one small item of 'determining factors'.

Yes, the richest zip codes are in cities, but most impoverished areas in the USA are actually generally in cities. The former drags the average way up.

Have a look here, Postal Code map of Canada [1]

Scroll over to to Toronto:

You notice 'super rich area' uptown. Then downtown and environs and immediate burbs are poor, some very poor. Then the 'extraburbs' are wealthy, then then countryside in the middle.

If you account for cost of living - the countryside people are doing very well. It costs $120K for a nice big house in my hometown, and electricians earn $80K.

In the us - the rural areas in the US that don't have a history of slavery (like the Dakotas, even Texas) actually have high levels of income and low levels of unemployment, low levels of crime ... but as you point out, not quite the same as the 'professional class' within cities.

So the 'banker class' and 'professional class' will be in cities, and make the most money.

But many of the rest in economic zones actually don't fare very well.

[1] https://globalnews.ca/news/370804/income-by-postal-code/

"access to markets" is not "the" determining factors, it is "a" determining factor. Have all the access you want via physical proximity, you also need to be able to offer something to that market, and an education is one of the factors in that. And it wasn't just missions that were the factor cited in the article, but a Jesuit one in particular: Jesuits are known for their strong push for education over the centuries. When the researcher here looked at non Jesuit missions in the same area, and therefore likely to have very similar "access to market", their outcomes were lower. I take your point about market access, and I think it is a good point, but education is one of the factors that gives a person access to a market.

I would be ashamed to publish the graph with the "trend", the fit is so incredibly bad.

This is an open access article and the statistics are published. See p.41 for a per-country analysis of the effect on literacy.

I would be ashamed to publish criticism about an open access scientific article without having any understanding of statistics.

It looks like variance is increasing as distance increases. This is bad statistics.

Variance can increase with time without invalidating the trend. Signals can attenuate with time and nonetheless still be a signal. This is very frequently the case with longitudinal studies that track outcomes from initial conditions.

And how you validate Bartlett’s test in this case?

Personally I prefer levene's test (it's more robust in situations where the distribution may not be normal). Either way though, typical practice would be to run the tests both assuming equal variance and again not assuming equal variance. If both are statistically significant then it's a moot point, the results are statistically significant regardless of whether the variance in populations is equivalent.

> It looks like variance is increasing as distance increases.

Given the topic, how would it not?

And how would you validate Bartlett’s test?

This is like saying a stone doesn’t really cause ripples because they fade away before the hit the far shore.

You don't think confounding variables would accumulate as the area being considered greatly increases? Why not?

What statistics does one need to understand to know that the correlation on that scatter graph is terrible? Hell you don't even need statistics - just use your eyes.

The fact that the x-axis variable only explains a small amount of the variance in the y-axis does not mean that the effect is not real or not statistically significant. In this case, it's exactly what you would expect, even if the effect is real; surely you don't think it's reasonable that there are no other factors affecting literacy.

Saying "just use your eyes!" instead of actually doing analysis can lead you to all kinds of incorrect conclusions -- both false positives and false negatives.

The first couple of weeks of my STATS 101 course was my professor showing examples where “your eyes” were wrong.

"Don't need statistics just use your eyes"

Yet the statistic supports the conclusion. Just because the signal is weak doesn't mean there's no signal.

Question: if I analyze 100 junk datasets and come up with 1 which has a statistically significant relationship (especially following some horrid-fit trendline like this) isn't there going to be some name for this?

After 100 datasets you're virtually necessarily going to come across these misleading conclusions, no?

If you're using a 5% significance level, you'd expect 5 datasets of 100 to come up with a statistically significant result even though there's no there there (ie even though the null hypothesis is true for all the datasets). That's by definition.

This is even before p-hacking.

Having said that, the study reported on here has significance levels better than 1%:

> The farther away a municipality (in dots) is from a historical mission, the lower its literacy level today. This unconditional relationship is negative and highly significant with a t-statistic of -4.36.

So, notwithstanding the experts here eyeballing the graph and dismissing it as embarrassing, I'd say there is something going on here.


Caicedo, F. V. (2018). The Mission: Human Capital Transmission, Economic Persistence, and Culture in South America*. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. doi:10.1093/qje/qjy024

It's called multiple testing. You're not guaranteed to get a misleading result, but it would be expected. The definition of the 5% significance level used in p-value testing is that given 100 junk datasets (distributed similarly), you would only expect 5 to show as strong an effect.

However, I don't really see what this study has to do with multiple testing. As far as I can tell, they had one dataset, and they tested that, and they got a significant result. Nothing fishy there. Sure the data is noisy, but wouldn't you expect that given how coarse the data is, and how many confounding factors there must be?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_comparisons_problem

Publication bias is a sort of multiple testing at the meta level: different groups of scientists try out different hypotheses — but only one each — and some of them just barely pass the statistical tests and thus get published.

Not saying that happened here! I haven’t even read the paper. But it is a valid concern when mining data for patterns, especially when those patterns have a questionable theoretical basis.

Oh absolutely!

I totally understand you're not saying that's what's happening here, but just to clarify for other readers, I'd say in this case there are a few reasons we don't need quite that level of suspicion:

1. There is a seemingly-sound theoretical basis for the observation (moreover, there doesn't seem to have been any element of fishing. Sometimes researchers think fishing is OK if they just do it once to avoid multiple testing. But then you certainly have multiple testing at the meta level).

2. This study agrees with at least one other completely independent, reputable study [1] (even different methodologies, apparently) that supported the underlying theory.

I do think the problem of multiple testing at the meta level is vastly underrated by the scientific community. Just, in this case, I think there are reasons to reject that hypothesis.

[1] https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/lwantche/f...

It's called the "file drawer problem" in which research is conducted but not published because it wasn't significant.

You're referring to "Type I error" in which a statistically significant result is obtained by chance, not because the effect is real.

This article does not appear to be an example of the hypothetical scenario you proposed. The trend line is not a "horrid-fit," as attested to by the statistical analysis published in the article - which is open access and may be read for free.

This is a scientific article - and unless you're a scientist, it may be difficult to understand the entire article.

Yes, it is the "Family-wise error rate". You need to perform "correction for multiple tests".

The simplest, most conservative form is Bonferroni correction [1], where you just divide the required significance threshold by the number of tests you perform. In your example, if you required significance at the 99% level (1% chance a false positive, or "Type I error"), then for 100 datasets, each individual one would require significance at the 99.99% level (0.01% false positives for each data set). (99.99%)^100 = 99.005%. This does not require any assumptions about the independence of the tests. Independent tests are the worst case, so this over-corrects if there is actual correlation between the measurements.

There are other, more complicated correction methods that do not give up as much statistical power (i.e., produce fewer false negatives), but that may require making more assumptions.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonferroni_correction

I've definitely seen it happening, and I think it's been referred to as "p-fishing".

Andrew Gelman calls the larger problem the "Garden of Forking Paths" - http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/research/unpublished/p_...

IIRC "The Garden of Forking Paths" is an interesting story by J. L. Borges, from where the title of the paper is probably taken.

I've heard that called "data dredging."


I've heard it called p-value hacking, Wikipedia refers to it as data-dredging.

It's interesting that the root cause is attributed to education and not living near a mission. That is live near a mission and end up 10% more educated. Be 10% more educated and earn 10% more.

If A leads to B, and B to C, isn't A ultimately the cause of C?

In the article they also mention that there were missions made by franciskaner who focused more on poverty and health. There was no such correlation of being more educated and earning more when living close such a mission.

So education seems to be the core benefit here. Not just living close to a mission.

Then should the study then take it's hypothesis / theory elsewhere and see if it applies where edu was increased and there were no missions?

Without that level of proof, the conclusion is premature. Or as I already mentioned, the core stimulus wrong.

It's not easy to find another situation where no other confounding effects were present. As explained in the article, the scholar brings good arguments as to why this is as close as it gets to a randomised trial.

I didn't say it was easy :) But that's still no excuse to say B leads to C when in fact, it (probably) does not.

Science isn't supposed to be easy. Truth isn't supposed to be easy. If it's easy, then there's a fair chance it's not either one of these.

Why would you say it probably does not? Aren't you falling into the same lack of evidence trap you claim is present here? As an aside, this conclusion is bolstered by research into factors influencing student outcomes in modern time: Even controlling for socioeconomic factors, students from more educated families and peer groups tend to complete higher levels of education, and thus perpetuate that cycle with their own children later in life. That's the same cycle being observed in this article. There may be other confounding factors that were the cause here, so further examples would be enlightening, but as it is this is a result that fits very well within the existing body of knowledge regarding factors that influence educational outcomes.

Not is the baseline. I'm not drawing any conclusions until there's proof otherwise.

Note: (probably) was in parens in a wink wink editorial sorta way. That is, I didn't want to say it as fact. But hint, given the lack of absolutely evidence, otherwise, it's a pretty safe presumption.

Wow, you say you're not drawing a conclusion and then "wink wink" go on to do exactly that, and in contradiction to the article without proof or even a rationale for why you seem disinclined to believe in the stated statistical significance on display here. Statistics are never "absolute" in the way you seem to be demanding, they're a matter of probability and likihood of chance outcomes. The outcomes cited here are well within established bounds of statistical significance and as well they comport with the existing body of research on educational outcomes.

Occam's razor would argue that truth should be rather easy.

I think you have a valid point, but that the correlation between B and C is still very likely, even if A is a factor in the existence of B.

For instance, if I have a particularly great lunch one day because a new guy is working the grill at a restaurant, I would claim that the new guy working the grill is the reason for my great lunch. There are, of course, many factors which go into him being there, such as the manager who chose to hire him, but it is nonetheless truthfully and directly because of him that I've had a great lunch.

Similarly, a mission is relevant and increases the likelihood of an education; it doesn't mean that education is not the most direct correlation, however. Additionally, somebody pointed out how similar effects were not found when missions focused on health and poverty, for instance.

I agree with your observation that in this case A was ultimately the cause of C. But as shinryuu noted above, other missions did not focus on B and did not achieve C. Because of that, it is reasonable to conclude that something else leading to B would also lead to C. So while A was ultimately the cause of C in this case, B is the cause which matters most if you want to reproduce C, because it means you can reach C with or without A.

Your statement now that B probably does not lead to C puzzles me. If that is true, then the A -> B -> C chain is broken, and your original statement that A is the cause of C (based on that chain) is invalidated. So I don't know where you are going with this.

This thesis works with even more power in Europe. From 1517 to the 1550s, Protestantism spread rapidly. It's spread stopped when the Jesuits began to build their schools. In every city where the Jesuits opened a school, the advance of Protestantism was quickly stopped. Its often said that the Jesuits were the foot soldiers of the Counter-Reformation, but specifically, it was their schools that were the main thing. And the schools helped make each city wealthy, where the schools were.

Can anyone elaborate - did Protestants not value intelligence or learning as much as the Jesuits?

My understanding is that Jesuit schools were indeed noteworthy/novel in their time/place

I'm not sure of the Protestant's focus or lack thereof, but many popular colleges in the U.S. are Jesuit universities: Boston College, Georgetown, and Fordham, for instance.

I believe the Protestants simply lacked the institutional wealth to set up these schools. Wealthy Protestant institutions don't appear till the late 1600s. In the 1500s the Protestant factions celebrated thrift, at least relative to the Catholic faith.

Likewise with the Gregorian calendar, introduced in October 1582. The Protestants simply lacked the institutional strength to pull off so important a reform.

> If A leads to B, and B to C, isn't A ultimately the cause of C?

Only if the mappings hold for every element, ie every A has to lead to B and every B has to lead to C before you can conclude that A causes B

See John Stuart Mill on causation. There's no such thing as singular causation.

Not really, causation doesn't have to be 100%.

Example: Getting shot causes holes in your lungs. Holes in your lungs cause you to die. Therefore, getting shot causes you to die.

All the above, including the inference in the last sentence, are valid statements, even though they don't hold true in 100% of cases.

Answer to grandparent's question is: Yes, if A->B->C, then A->C. Just make sure those casuative arrows actually exist before you make this deduction.

I think that is a bad example because there are multiple ways to die from getting shot. So, even though there is not 100% chance that you die from holes in your lungs, there is a pretty high chance that you will die from any complication.

No, and your example is perfect. Getting shot can end up NOT leading to B (and then not leading to C). Get shot in the leg and live. No B means you can’t assume C.

You're right.

But in natural language, statements about causation don't have to be 100 percent guaranteed to be valid.

Otherwise there's very little you could really say about the world.

Consider: "smoking causes cancer." According to you, this would be false.

The Jesuits brought more than education, they brought the standards with which they're being currently evaluated. I imagine that, at the time, people actively self-selected and self-deselected based on how interested they were in advancing in and trading with white culture, moving toward it and moving away from it. By the time that the Jesuits left, the area was filled with people whose ambitions were connected with white people. Those values have been passed down to some tiny extent long after the Jesuits have gone, bringing the locals slightly out of baseline.

In 1767, people who were educated by the Jesuits would be considered to have infinitely higher education levels by this study (as opposed to a baseline of zero), and people who participated in commerce with the Jesuits and the Spanish would be considered to have infinitely higher incomes than the people who didn't (who would be considered to have an income of zero.) I bet you might find out that they are slightly more Catholic, and slightly more into Spanish TV and films.

Site is down for me at moment, mirror at: http://archive.is/W3G60

The article is at https://sci-hub.tw/https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjy024 for what it's worth.

One potential confounder that the paper does not appear to address is the possibility that members of those missions fathered children with the native population, who(se descendants) stayed in place even after the mission left. Do we have any estimate, genetic or otherwise, how prevalent this was?

Fascinating. I wonder if the reverse could be found. That is areas where educated "elites" were decimated and education level plummeted.

Normality test and normplot of residuals? Durbin-Watson test and residuals vs order plot? Residuals vs fit test? Bartlett’s test?

I don't get the gist. But my interpretation would be that missions supported literacy to read the bible. Once you were able to read this capability could naturally be applied to other domains (instead reading just the bible) as well?

According to the article, the Jesuits taught local people "blacksmithing, arithmetic and embroidery." The missions seem to have been more about vocational training than about literacy, although I'm sure they tried to teach the Bible as well.

Religion is one of the many topics Jesuits teach. To be ordained a Jesuit father one must hold two university diplomas: one in theology, and one in another discipline.

I went to a Jesuit high school, and some of the teachers were priests. My religion teacher (who also gave math classes, but not to me) was an electrical engineer whose master thesis pertained to ring token networks. He also ended up doing jail time after sexually assaulting his nephew, but that's another story...

Those times in catholic countries Bible was in Latin so I very much doubt that it was taught at all. What did they teach then? To read, write, do maths and practical stuff for jobs.

Edit: of course they would teach religion, but not from reading the Bible.

The Jesuit approach was to teach people about Catholicism through all aspects of life, not just reading the Bible. Plays, music, and almost anything you could imagine would be created in order to teach people about Christ [1]. The end result is that the Jesuit order developed an incredibly strong academic tradition in basically every field.

The Jesuits, especially around the 1600s emphasized adopting some customs of the local culture in order to spread Christianity, so you see Jesuits arriving in China and Japan learning the local language, dressing in local clothing, and even emulating some of the local traditions. Then they would use their advanced knowledge and willingness to provide education as a means of spreading Catholicism.

For example, Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary to China impressed the Chinese so thoroughly that he was the first European ever invited to the Forbidden City. In the early 1600s, He was hugely influential in spreading more modern astronomical findings to China and he also provided the Chinese with the first modern (as in complete) map of the world. He was even nice enough to label it in Mandarin.

The Jesuits were extremely thorough at documenting their efforts so they were able to discern what worked from what didn't. Language became a very obvious barrier, namely that it was quite hard to translate some Catholic theological concepts (e.g. a Trinitarian God) into some languages. This meant that they emphasized learning the local language even more, but also would devote some effort to teaching locals Latin or some other suitable Romantic language - usually the one attached to the European power in control of the area. The effectiveness of temporary missions also proved to be problematic: converted locals "unconverted" after the missions left, so missions became more permanent and there was a focus on becoming a part of the local community. In practice, this meant constructing permanent locals for the missions (which usually had schools or universities attached).


[1] This is probably best summarized by the concept of "Opus Dei" (God's Work) and the universal call to holiness. The idea is that your daily work, regardless of profession, should be considered an offering to God. If your work is an offering to God, then it must be your best work so you should not be either mediocre or half-assed about it.

It's funny that you mention Opus Dei, which in modern times was the name and conviction adopted by another Spanish congregation that's, on the political spectrum, on the opposite extreme to where most Jesuits are.

Just because Excel gave you a trendline doesn't mean you should go with it. Their choice of graph detracts from their argument.

They do address confounding variables a bit but it isn't especially thorough.

Have you looked at the statistics? Do you think you can glance at a graph and have better insight than someone that has carefully studied the underlying data, including run a regression over it? Do you realise that the trend line slope has a t-stat of 4.36? Did you notice that all lines contained within the 95% confidence interval for the trend are negatively sloped?

This is an article summarizing a 90+ page paper. It lacks details because it is a summary broadcasting news about a study.

The study is still incomplete until you figure out whether the belief in God and specifically the bible are actually what helped retain the knowledge and work ethic over multiple generations and how it compares to atheist/muslim/[other religion] communities. Instead we get a bold claim that education itself is enough to help people when maybe the bible or religious belief in general was a primary ingredient in that help.

This is addressed in the article. The effect is uniquely found around former Jesuit missions, not Franciscan ones.

> The Franciscans helped, too. The mendicant order had been in the area longer than the Jesuits. It wasn’t expelled. But the Franciscans focused on poverty and health, rather than education and vocation. Valencia found that, perhaps as a result, families’ economic and educational outcomes didn’t vary based on their distance to that order’s missions.

This would be more convincing if it had a map of where the Franciscans set up shop. Does anyone know of one?

The article has a map of where the Jesuit missions were located, and they are in quite a small area, basically in a line about 300km long. So the variable "distance to closest Jesuit" is probably just distance from this region.


My protestant mother explained me once something that went like this: there is a protestant ethic that says God reward his believers with success in life so protestants would then work hard or try to be successful as a way to seek confirmation from the community that they are good standing believers.

I don't know much about protestant ethic but that sounded plausible to me.

Jesuits are Catholics.

> there is a protestant ethic that says God reward his believers with success in life so protestants would then work hard or try to be successful as a way to seek confirmation from the community that they are good standing believers.

As the story goes, protestants changed their religion (or better yet created a new one) to fit their peculiar cultural trats, not the other way around.

Calvinists does have this views, but Lutherans does not. Since the Lutheran populations (Scandinavia and northern Germany) seem to historically have been as economically successful as the comparable Calvinist populations, I think this hypothesis cannot be true.

In any case, both Jesuits and Franciscans are Catholic.

That's known as the prosperity gospel, and it is not the same thing as the Protestant work ethic. It is also a particularly modern problem/belief, and unlikely to be the cause of the economic differences between Catholics and Protestants.

The Protestant work ethic is far more about the theology of the Reformers, and in particular the Calvinistic Reformers. Their doctrines included the idea of doing all that you do for the glory of God (including your vocation, and thus compelling excellence at work), treating your material possessions as ultimately belonging to God and not yourself, and thus not to be wasted in frivolities, denial of the self and self-pleasure, resulting in less waste on "fancy living", and much less of a focus on giving to the Church as a means of attaining grace. This resulted in private individuals accruing more wealth. It certainly isn't the only reason for European capitalism and wealth, but it appears to be a factor.

The study compares effects of activity by Jesuits and by Franciscans. Both are Catholic orders so the difference is not related to the religion, but to the focus on education in Jesuits missions

Maybe the jesuit order did very little or nothing to spread catholicism, as their mission was described to combat poverty and health issues. We can see this kind of faith divorced service in catholic missions and hospitals. They don't require anything in return, not even the time to sit through a sermon.

I do not think that you have ever encountered The Jesuits... They are as Catholic as can be.

In that times the primary goal of all catholic missions was to spread Catholicism, not to provide welfare to "pagans"

I wonder if religion did play a role.

One particular case that is interesting: USA. USA is pretty religious country(>2/3 believe in god and angels) relative to other western countries(where religion is in decline and below 1/2). Its often argued that the religious nature(protestants) of USA shaped the superpower and its economic dominance. Nearly all founding fathers were wealthy land owners who were also deeply religious. The god that they believed in was a wealthy god, who told his subjects it was okay to pursue wealth and fortune. So its not surprising that Televangelists ask for crazy donations and live like the wealthy.

Or, more simply, the USA has had huge amounts of natural resources available to it, and profited from the wars that wrecked the previous superpowers.

...and easily defensible borders for when things did go pearshaped, and peaceful (and weak) neighbors to avoid the drain of constant defense, and had lots of internal cultures to draw from. And in any case throughout certainly the first half the 20th century the US was not uniquely religious; much of europe was too, and non-coincidentally shared the same faiths. The ascent of the US appears to have occurred at least somewhat before the loss of faith in europe.

So... who knows? I mean, there are so many differences you're never going to be able to pick the various effects apart without careful - but subjective and error-prone - plain old reasoning.

I don't see any particular reason to believe religion played a very notable role, but I don't think it's an absurd notion either: I just don't know, and haven't seen a very convincing argument either way.

Russia, Mexico, Brazil, etc., have or had more readily available natural resources. The US, unlike the Spanish viceroyalties relied more on agriculture and trade than the Portuguese and Spanish colonies who stuck gold in the Americas. Japan is natural resource poor yet it’s the worlds third leading economy. So thats not the main driver.

Japan’s wealth has varied over time. Same for the other countries you listed. It seems that a good work ethic that includes working to educate yourself, and a stable environment for your good works to compound on themselves is the main driver. The US had these qualities in abundance and at a large scale for some time.

    Nearly all founding fathers were ... were also deeply religious
I'm no expert but I had the impression the founders weren't big on religion. One wouldn't admit to being an atheist back then, so being into Freemasonry or Deism was as close as you'd expect a public figure to get.

My understanding (and I am not a historian) is that many of the founding fathers were not Christians (e.g. they were deists, agnostic, or atheists); however, they did come from a Christian culture and espoused/endorsed Christian ethical principles. There also were founding fathers who were Christians (e.g. Sam Adams, Washington, and Patrick Henry).

My interpretation of this is that America was founded based on Christian ethics, culture, and philosophy; even if many of the founders were not practicing Christians. In my opinion, this does not necessarily imply that America is/should be a Christian nation in the right wing/culture war sense.

They assembled a country from components of a lot of cultures through history. They were as informed by the source of Christian ethics (older religions and philosophies with the same ideas) as by Christianity itself.

The founding fathers were very far from being "deeply religious." Once, when Benjamin Franklin proposed a moment of prayer - at a difficult point during negotiations over the shape the nation should take - the other founders just looked at him as though he were a fish. No prayer happened. And Mr. Franklin wasn't exactly pious, either.

Two big factors: the U.S. and Canada held enormous untapped gold and silver sources, and the U.S. (and Russia) appropriated all German intellectual property after WWII. Their allies didn't, but kept trading with the U.S. nonetheless.

While religiosity has been diverging significantly over the last decades, no such different existed in the times you mention, i. e. from first settlements to, say, WW2.

The degree to which the founding fathers were religious is debatable. It would appear to be singular achievement for men of actual, deep faith to resist the temptation to recreate the sort of intertwined state and church typical of the time.

A somewhat more believable narrative is that the founding fathers tended more to the religious ideas of enlightment, in a process parallel to what would later result in the french revolution.

That believe system is called "deism" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism#Deism_in_the_United_Stat...) and Wikipedia lists quite a few well-known names (with varying degrees of evidence).

It is unlikely that any of them believed in a "Wealthy god", for most of these men were quite smart, and had studied philosophy, while the idea of God being "wealthy" in a material sense is insanely stupid: Once you've created the universe, you really don't care about your ranking on the Forbes list.

There is, obviously, the Calvinist/Puritan tradition that emphasised work ethics (plus burning of witches). But it's important to remember that these were very small communities, and that about a hundred years passed between the pilgrims and US independence. By that time, these groups were but a minor fraction of the population. The vast majority of delegates to the Continental Congress were therefore (officially) Anglicans or "mainline" Protestants.

That's not to discount the Quaker/Calvinist/etc. influence, which certainly played a role. But it's unclear if the causality was quite as easy as one may think: after all, religious believes emphasising self-reliance may just be too good a fit for the needs of small groups of settlers arriving on a vast and wild continent. So it's just as believable that the importance of such doctrine was retrofitted to the needs of the time, possibly even afterwards.

In any case, drawing an equivalence from these early believes of redemption through work to today's version of retrofitting religion to match culture, namely the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" is a simplification bordering on insult. That's easily observed by comparing adherence of the former tradition (the Amish being the closest example you'll find) and the latter (the President comes to mind).

The missing pieces are obvious: humility was certainly among the values, but wealth wasn't. While hard work was/is emphasised, it was/is not intended to lead to earthly riches, but to atone for the original sin and, by God's grace, lead to rewards not in this life, but what comes next.

"The degree to which the founding fathers were religious is debatable. It would appear to be singular achievement for men of actual, deep faith to resist the temptation to recreate the sort of intertwined state and church typical of the time"

Considering that the sectarian violence of the English Civil War was still fresh in their minds, and that many of the States did have different official state churches (e.g. MA:Puritan, PA:Quaker, MD: Catholic), they all made a pragmatic compromise to prohibit the congress from establishing a federal religion or interfering with the state religions of any of the several states.

As an example, the original MA state constitution, written by Adams, makes the Congregationalist church the state religion, and guarantees state funding to construct a church in each town and pay a Congregationalist minister to preach there. That's why there is a quaint white wooden church in the center of each town in MA and ME (which was part of MA at the time).

Jefferson might have been a deist and his Democrats have always been more aligned with the spirit of the French enlightenment and revolution, but the Whigs/Federalists were most definitely not.

There should be a number of other missions that were led by orders who stressed a belief in God but not necessarily education the way that the Jesuits do. It would be simple enough to see if the same levels of achievement persisted around the non-Jesuit missions.

Which they did, described in article. As I was reading it I kept coming up with “why not X instead” and a paragraph or two later they recognized that point and addressed it to my satisfaction.

Most of the discussion here is driven by people who clearly did not read the entire article. Maddening.

I’m more curious about why the Jesuits chose to build their missions where they did. I highly doubt they placed them randomly, and strongly suspect that they placed them in places with good opportunities for building thriving communities.

The authors considered this objection and rejected it. Apparently, the "best" places were already taken by Franciscans, which arrived in the New World maggiore the Jesuits.


This comment wasn't substantive and really just attempts to hijack a sound discussion with a form of divisive reasoning I thought was contained solely within the comments of Fox News.

Arguing that the general groups of faceless people you've marked as the problem do not present evidence when you yourself have provided none is....ironic?

Who are these people you despise so much? Let's find them and make them wear something that will allow us to see them for the enemy they are. Right?

Love is the answer.

It is evident to anyone who seriously studies Western civilization that our (mostly) shared values are an offspring of the French Revolution, similar, though earlier, slower and less violent democratic developments in England, humanism and enlightenment (Rousseau, etc.), utilitarianism to some extent - Mill addressed the Social Question and the utilitarian tradition later evolved to modern liberalism -, and medical, hygienic, and technological advances, last but not least factories and modern manufacturing and the invention of fertilizers. Some modern values are even the result of such mundane things as officers and politicians fearing death due to the power and sophistication of modern weapons, leading to international treaties to ban certain weapons and disarm countries, as well as new multilateral diplomatic treaties and conventions (U.N., Geneva Conventions, etc.).

It is easy to see that there is no coherent set of "Christian values" that is not based on secular traditions, just look at the history of Christian torture (middle age), genocides, child abuse, Christian support for Feudalism, crusades, and so forth. The Christian values you endorse nowadays are an invention that didn't exist 150 years ago and resulted from the influence of other ideologies on Christianity, not the opposite.

I'm not having much success trying to find anything in this rather incoherent rant that could, even charitably, be described as a good faith effort to accurately describe whatever it's subject is supposed to be...

I suspect you're a big fan of the US constitution? In that case I fear you won't like to hear how that document was really quite like what you are complaining about: upsetting the (god-given) status quo to grant newfangled "rights" to the masses that cannot handle them. Replacing what had worked so well for so long with risky, top-down experiments in government-engineered "elite" ideas of equality, etc.

The foundational philosophy of the US happens to be the so-called "Enlightenment", if only because that was what was hip in 1759. If you need proof, just find the reason the French send the US such a generous gift as Lady Liberty.

As to empirical evidence of progress, it would seem that you can have your pick among any number of geographic areas and you will find a astonishingly strong correlation between general welfare and the sort of "undefined futuristic government-sanctioned destruction" you bemoan. Even within the outlier, namely the US, the less God-fearing parts on the coast seem to be doing quite well.

Of course I'm defining "general welfare" to include the right of women to vote and the rights of gay people to not be stoned, and I'm getting the vibe that you would disagree with that. Tough luck, I guess: That's the government-sanctioned metric now.

(although I suspect even most born-again white men would prefer today's godless dentists and scandalous, dangerous ideas of "all men are created equal")

simen 4 months ago [flagged]

Are you for real? It's hardly a bold claim that education helps spread and retain knowledge. This is well known and supported by numerous studies. We know that parents' economic and educational status correlates well with children's economic and educational status. Also, this area was more or less completely converted to Christianity. If everyone's Christian, that can hardly account for the fact that economic and educational status correlates with distance to these missions. The article also mentions that this same relationship did not hold for the Fransiscan missions, who similarly promoted Catholicism and belief in the Bible, but didn't focus as much on education. This is unexpected if Christianity by itself was the primary cause.

Also, I'm not an expert on the Guarani or Jesuit missions, but it seems that actually the natives were the ones who dictated how labor was to be organized: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/614138 This says that they established a sort of proto-socialist system (my word, not theirs) of communal ownership and redistribution of food on mission lands by threatening to go on strike, essentially. Since the Jesuits were totally dependent on the Guarani as the primary labor force farming and feeding the missions, they couldn't impose the harsher labor regime they wanted. This doesn't sound like unenlightened Indians being taught the value of hard work by Jesus, it sounds like a well-organized group of people who knew the value of their own labor and took steps to ensure that they could benefit fairly from it.

All in all, if you want to claim that the power of Christian belief alone can account for these findings, I think the burden of proof is squarely on your shoulders.

10 years of additional education for 10% more income? How is that worth it?

people living near the ruins of Jesuit missions complete 10 to 15 percent more years of education and earn 10 percent more

Are you making a joke that I don't get, or did you skip over the first occurrence of "percent"?

Didn’t see percent. Thanks.

A better title would be “Economic Development and Investment has Lasting Influence”. (Brought to you by Obvious Publishing, Inc.)

Isn’t that what civilization is all about?

Wow, someone didn’t like my comment!

So I’ll try again...

What the article is discussing is an effect of civilization. Humans invest in things to create lasting effects.

Perhaps the best documentation on this theory is Porter’s Diamond [0], which helps explain things like Silicon Valley for tech, HOUSTON for Oil & Gas, or car builders in Northern Italy.

If we didn’t see these effects, then there would be no way to advance civilization. Put another way, there have to be lasting effects a good part of the time, or we’d still live back in the Stone Age. My frustration is that the author seems to think this is amazing place, despite the fact that it can be found all over the world. Another example would be London for finance, and Switzerland for banking.

[0] https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/porter-diamond.asp

I know the article isn’t attempting to portray the Jesuits as good actors, but from a basic human context, the indigenous Guarani didn’t care about being Western-educated or earning high incomes or need these things before their subjugation by the Spaniards. Their original way of life was destroyed and they were forced to comply with the Jesuits or any other conquest-seeking organization.

This is like one society(A) conquering a perfectly functioning desert dwelling culture(B) that was previously unconcerned with A and teaching B how to swim the butterfly stroke because being a good butterfly swimmer leads to prosperity in society A’s socioeconomic system. This now valuable training was passed on through the generations of B and today they are good swimmers and more prosperous in the new society then those who historically didn’t get the lesson. And we look at this correlation to say that investments in swimming is a good thing and pat ourselves on the back. Ok.

I know you are getting down voted but I think there is a valid point to be taken into consideration here. It seems like the evaluation of how these groups of people are doing today is being see through the lens of our own biased ideals of what "better" is. Sometimes I wonder about some of the indigenousness peoples that have been effectively wiped out around the world what if we had a "prime directive" and let them develop on their own? Could they have founded a civilization that perhaps is "better" in other ways. Maybe one that lives more harmoniously with the environment rather than cooking the planet? Just something to think about.

> through the lens of our own biased ideals of what "better" is

I agree that thinking about ideas like that is important, but I have to point out that it's not like the entire planet was conquered by a single culture, only large parts of it were conquered by the European powers. Civilizations were founded in many different places, and the rare existing cultures who eschewed trade and weren't conquered haven't developed in a long time. There is actually a question as to whether they live a generally more fulfilling life than we do, but that wouldn't be because they developed a better way, instead it's that they didn't develop at all.

Yes, I see both sides of the argument, but it is intriguing to think about, say for example if the Inca empire had continued to develop? I was reading about their system of communication that involved the Quipu which used a series of knots on strands of twine. Runners would carry them between cities, sort of a human pony express but the medium was knots on twine. What if that technology had continued to evolve replacing the knots eventually with more sophisticated coding methods and so on. The Quipunet :) Just fun sometimes to ponder.

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