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.
Thomas Dohmen, Armin Falk , David Huffman , Uwe Sunde
Recent studies find that individuals’ social norms – as evidenced by their opinions and behaviour – can be transmitted from one generation to the next within the same cultural setting (Algan and Cahuc 2010, Bjørnskov 2012, Dohmen et al. 2012, Guiso et al. 2006, Rainer and Siedler 2009, Rice and Feldman 1997). Studies also find that the current environment – such as institutions – plays an important role in shaping an individual’s social norms (Dinesen 2012, Nannestad et al. 2014, Alesina and La Ferrara 2002, Bjørnskov 2007, Glaeser et al. 2000, Helliwell and Wang 2011, Kosfeld et al.
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.
Social attitudes and economic development: an epidemiological approach
Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc02 October 2007
What are the fundamental causes of differences in income per capita across countries? Although there is still little consensus on the answers to this question, it is often argued that social attitudes such as trust are one of the main determinants of economic development.