Cultural transmission occurs both vertically – from one generation to the next – and, increasingly in modern times, horizontally – within generations and across populations. Using novel data for 74 countries, this column explores how genetic relatedness between populations affects the transmission of cultural traits. A pattern of positive and significant relationships is found between genetic distance and various measures of cultural distance, including language, religion, values, and norms. This implies that populations that are ancestrally closer face lower barriers to learning new ideas and behaviours from each other.
Enrico Spolaore, Romain Wacziarg, Saturday, June 27, 2015
Esther Hauk, Giovanni Immordino, Thursday, October 16, 2014
Given a large body of evidence that television influences cultural attitudes, the fear that foreign content erodes local culture may be justified. Such reasoning is often cited in support of the cultural exception that the audiovisual industry routinely receives. This column introduces an economic model of cultural transmission and viewer choice to argue that a competitive TV industry is the best way to ensure cultural survival.
Patricia Jackson, Monday, October 13, 2014
Following the Global Crisis the focus has been on how to make banks safer. Capital and liquidity requirements have been tightened, but attention now needs to shift to corporate governance and risk culture. This column argues that in opaque organisations, formal risk-appetite frameworks can provide a pre-commitment mechanism that tightens risk governance, but a focus on the wider risk culture is also important.
Francesco Giavazzi, Ivan Petkov, Fabio Schiantarelli, Monday, June 16, 2014
The persistence of cultural attitudes is an important determinant of the success of institutional reforms, and of the impact of immigration on a country’s culture. This column presents evidence from a study of European immigrants to the US. Some cultural traits – such as deep religious values – are highly persistent, whereas others – such as attitudes towards cooperation and redistribution – change more quickly. Many cultural attitudes evolve significantly between the second and fourth generations, and the persistence of different attitudes varies across countries of origin.
John Helliwell, Shun Wang, Jinwen Xu, Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Social norms have been shown to have important effects on economic outcomes. This column discusses new evidence showing that social norms are deeply rooted in long-standing cultures, but do evolve in reaction to major changes. It draws on a fully global sample involving migrants in more than 130 countries, using seven waves of the Gallup World Poll.
Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou, Friday, October 11, 2013
During the ‘Scramble for Africa,’ the arbitrary design of colonial borders partitioned many ethnicities across two or more contemporary African states. This column presents recent research that exploits this quasi-experiment to study the effect of institutions on development. The overall effect of institutions is insignificant; but this masks considerable heterogeneity driven by diminishing government influence in remote areas. These findings conflict with previous cross-country work in economics, but support arguments put forward by the African historiography.
Enrico Spolaore, Romain Wacziarg, Thursday, October 3, 2013
There is now widespread agreement that ‘deep’ history matters for comparative development. Recent research has shown that ancestry – the transmission of genetic and cultural traits across generations – matters more than the history of geographic regions. This column argues that long-term divergences in inherited traits can create barriers to the diffusion of technology. The greater a population’s genetic distance to the population on the technological frontier, the lower its relative income will be. Development policies should aim at reducing barriers to exchange and communication.
Jeffrey V. Butler, Paola Giuliano, Luigi Guiso, Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Trust among strangers is at the heart of well-functioning market economics. This column argues that individual trust beliefs are related to individual trustworthiness, which in turn is related to the values parents transmit to their children. It adds that if someone forms trust beliefs about unknown people by attributing to others his own trustworthiness, he is bound to make mistakes by being either too naïve or too wary.
Victor Gay, Estefania Santacreu-Vasut, Amir Shoham, Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Gender discrimination varies vastly across nations – an outcome that most would ascribe at least partly to culture. If culture is transmitted via language, as Douglas North asserts, grammar difference should line up with gender discrimination. This column presents new empirical evidence that gender distinctions in language are strongly correlated with female labour-force participation and the use of gender political quotas.
Jean Tirole, Roland Bénabou, Monday, November 21, 2011
Why do many oppose the selling of human organs if, as economists argue, this would increase supply? Economists see material incentives as key to changing behaviour – and are puzzled if incentives don’t work as expected. For psychologists, social norms explain such behaviour; legal scholars say law can shape society’s norms. CEPR DP8663 tries to reconcile these disparate insights with a unifying theory that could explain puzzles such the aversion to organ-selling as well as why so many people resist economists’ advice.
Lasse Steiner, Bruno S Frey, Friday, November 18, 2011
There are nearly 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage sites. These sites benefit hugely from tourism, so suspicions of fixing the judges’ verdicts are rife. This column suggests a novel way to get rid of the politicisation: random selection.
Alberto Alesina, Paola Giuliano, Nathan Nunn, Monday, June 6, 2011
Why do levels of female participation in the labour force vary so extremely around the world? The authors of CEPR DP8418 test the hypothesis that cultural notions of 'a woman's place' originated with agricultural practices. They find evidence that the division of labour associated with plough agriculture contributed to development of norms that confined women to the home. These norms appear to persist through generations.
Nico Voigtländer, Hans-Joachim Voth, Sunday, May 22, 2011
Is violence a cultural trait passed from one generation to the next? This column examines an extreme case – anti-Semitism in Germany. It shows that towns that murdered their Jews during the Black Death (1348-1350) were also much more likely to commit violence or engage in anti-Semitic acts in interwar Germany, nearly 600 years later. This suggests racial hatred can persist over centuries.
Elias Papaioannou, Stelios Michalopoulos, Monday, November 15, 2010
How much influence did colonisation have on Africa’s development? This column examines data from before colonisation up to the modern day and argues that differences in colonial institutions do not explain differences in regional economic performance. Instead, it finds that pre-colonial political centralisation and ethnic class stratification have a significantly positive impact on local development.
Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Gérard Roland, Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Does culture affect long-run growth? This column argues that countries with a more individualist culture have enjoyed higher long-run growth than countries with a more collectivist culture. Individualist culture attaches social status rewards to personal achievements and thus provides not only monetary incentives for innovation but also social status rewards.
Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Gérard Roland, Monday, September 20, 2010
CEPR DP 8013 models and tests the impact on growth of a cultural variable along a dimension of individualism/collectivism. Using genetic data to instrumentalize cultural transmission, the authors find a robust effect of individualism on productivity, income, and innovation.
Joel Waldfogel, Fernando Ferreira, Saturday, May 29, 2010
Is pop music leading to cultural globalisation with the US at the helm? This column examines data from over a million chart entries in 22 countries covering 98% of the world music market. It finds no evidence that the rise of music trade has eroded interest in local music production or consumption. In fact some smaller countries actually benefit disproportionately.
Carmine Guerriero, Saturday, December 19, 2009
Do different types of legal system have a lasting effect on the economy? The emerging consensus would argue “yes”. This column suggests that types of legal system can change depending on the culture and political institutions of the country. Determining the effect on the economy is not straightforward.
Paola Giuliano, Luigi Guiso, Jeffrey V. Butler, Thursday, October 8, 2009
Virtually every commercial transaction involves trust, and more trusting societies tend to be richer. But does it pay individuals to trust? This column suggests that relationship between trust and income is not always increasing but is instead hump-shaped. Individuals that mistrust too much tend to miss profitable opportunities, while those who are too trusting are cheated abnormally often.
Alison Booth, Monday, September 14, 2009
Women are underrepresented in high-paying jobs and upper management. Is that due to gender differences in risk aversion and facing competition? This column describes an experiment in which girls were found to be as competitive and risk-taking as boys when surrounded by only girls. This suggests cultural pressure to act as a girl could explain gender differences that are not innate.