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Banking on a Religious Divide: Accounting for the Success of the Netherlands' Raiffeisen Cooperatives in the Crisis of the 1920s

  • Christopher L. Colvin (a1)

This article investigates the impact of the socioreligious segregation of Dutch society on the asset allocation choices of rural bankers and the withdrawal behavior of their depositors during the early 1920s. Results suggest that cooperatively-owned Raiffeisen banks for both Catholic and Protestant minority groups could limit their exposure to a debt-deflation crisis, despite operating more precarious balance sheets than banks for majorities. Business histories demonstrate how strict membership criteria and personal guarantors acted as screening and monitoring devices. Banks serving minorities functioned as club goods, managing their exposure to the crisis by exploiting the confessionalized nature of Dutch society.

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I thank Gerben Bakker, Stefano Battilossi, Sascha Becker, Oscar Gelderblom, Timothy Guinnane, Abe de Jong, Herman de Jong, Joost Jonker, Peter Koudijs, Eoin McLaughlin, Joke Mooij, Larry Neal, Ronald Rommes, Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, Max-Stephan Schulze, Kenneth Snowden, John Turner, and Hans-Joachim Voth for helpful comments and encouragement; seminar, workshop, and conference participants at the London School of Economics, Queen's University Belfast, the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, the Economic History Association (Evanston), the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture (Washington DC), and the European Business History Association (Paris) for useful feedback on my arguments; Jan van der Meer for vital assistance in identifying archival material; Laurence Colvin and Philip Fliers for excellent research assistance; and Ann Carlos and three anonymous referees for showing me how to improve my original submission to this Journal. Financial support from the Economic and Social Research Council is also gratefully acknowledged.

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