Richard Morin's column in today's Washington Post calls attention to a fascinating empirical study of the impact of repealing Sunday closing laws. Recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Jonathan Gruber & Daniel M. Hungerman, The Church vs the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?, concludes that the repeal of "blue laws" has definite effects on the behavior. Here is part of the Abstract:
We ... use a variety of datasets to show that when a state repeals its blue laws religious attendance falls, and that church donations and spending fall as well. These results do not seem to be driven by declines in religiosity prior to the law change, nor do we see comparable declines in membership or giving to nonreligious organizations after a state repeals its laws.... We find that repealing blue laws leads to an increase in drinking and drug use, and that this increase is found only among the initially religious individuals who were affected by the blue laws.... [T]he gap in heavy drinking between religious and non religious individuals falls by about half after the laws are repealed.The full report is available online from SSRN at a cost of five dollars.