Francesco Giavazzi, Ivan Petkov, Fabio Schiantarelli16 June 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.
Thomas Dohmen, Armin Falk , David Huffman , Uwe Sunde
Are a person’s values and beliefs persistent, or do they evolve – possibly rather quickly – in response to the economic and institutional environment? This is a central question, for instance, if one is interested in assessing the likelihood of success of reforms that change rules within a country. Are such reforms doomed because a country’s culture cannot be changed, or can they succeed because they can change cultural attitudes by altering incentives, and if so, over what time horizon?
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.
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.
Morality – defined as individual values and convictions about the scope of application of norms of good conduct – is an important factor in individual behaviour and thus economic outcomes. Such values evolve slowly so they are an important channel through which distant political history can influence current economic performance. Here is new evidence supporting this view.
Economic backwardness is typically associated with a wide range of institutional, organisational and government failures – and these along many dimensions. In numerous poor or stagnating countries, politicians are ineffective and corrupt, public goods are under-provided and public policies confer rents to privileged élites, law enforcement is inadequate, and moral hazard is widespread inside public and private organisations. There is not just one institutional failure. Typically, the countries or regions that fail in one dimension also fail in many other aspects of collective behaviour.