Does Welfare Spending Crowd Out Charitable Activity? Evidence from Historical England under the Poor Laws

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This study examines the relationship between government spending and charitable activity. We present a novel way of testing the ‘crowding out hypothesis’, making use of the fact that welfare provision under the Old Poor Laws was decided at the parish level, thus giving heterogeneity within a single country. Using data on poor relief spending combined with data on charitable incomes by county before and after 1800, we find a positive relationship: areas with more public provision also enjoyed higher levels of charitable income. These results are confirmed when instrumenting for Poor Law spending and when looking at first differences.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Economic Journal
Issue number599
Pages (from-to)50-83
Publication statusPublished - 1. Feb 2017


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