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Social Networks and Technology Adoption: Evidence from Church Mergers in the U.S. Midwest

AAEA member published new research in AJAE

In Upper-Midwestern rural counties that experienced a Lutheran congregational merger between 1959 and 1964, the number of farms using chemical fertilizer increased by over 5%, and the total fertilized acreage increased by over 10% relative to counties without a merger.

In the new article “Social Networks and Technology Adoption: Evidence from Church Mergers in the U.S. Midwest” published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Fiona Burlig from the University of Chicago and Andrew Stevens from the University of Wisconsin-Madison look into how congregational Lutheran church mergers in the 1950’s and 1960’s affect the adoption of chemical fertilizer on farms in the Midwest.

The authors say, “We find that in rural counties that had at least one Lutheran church merger, the number of farms using fertilizer increased by over five percent, and the total area fertilized increased by over ten percent compared to counties that did not have a merger. Additional results support the hypothesis that our main finding is due to increased information sharing between farmers in merged congregations.”

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ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes three journals, the Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (an open access journal), the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. To learn more, visit

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