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, 27 June 2015
Roland Bénabou, Davide Ticchi , Andrea Vindigni, 19 April 2015
History offers many examples of the recurring tensions between science and organized religion, but as part of the paper’s motivating evidence we also uncover a new fact: in both international and cross-state U.S. data, there is a significant and robust negative relationship between religiosity and patents per capita. Three long-term outcomes emerge. First, a "Secularization" or "Western-European" regime with declining religiosity, unimpeded science, a passive Church and high levels of taxes and transfers. Second, a "Theocratic" regime with knowledge stagnation, extreme religiosity with no modernization effort, and high public spending on religious public goods. In-between is a third, "American" regime that generally (not always) combines scientific progress and stable religiosity within a range where religious institutions engage in doctrinal adaptation.
Francesco Giavazzi, Ivan Petkov, Fabio Schiantarelli, 16 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.
Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda, 14 May 2014
African regions where Protestant missionaries were active had indigenous newspapers a century before other regions. This column argues, based on new research, that this difference has had lasting effects. Proximity to a mission that had a printing press in 1903 predicts newspaper readership today. Population density and light density (a proxy for economic development) is also higher today in regions nearer to missions that had printing presses. The results suggest that a well-functioning media – not Protestantism per se – was important for development.
Sascha Becker, Ludger Woessmann, 15 January 2012
Does religion affect suicide? This column presents new evidence from 19th century Prussia showing that suicide rates are much higher in Protestant than in Catholic areas, and that this reflects a causal effect of Protestantism. It also suggests that economic modelling can help understand why this is so.
Jared Rubin, 22 December 2011
The economic rise of Europe and its offshoots relative to the rest of the world is of intrinsic interest to those concerned with the mechanisms underlying economic success and stagnation. This column argues that differences in the legitimising relationship between political and religious authorities in Europe and the Middle East have contributed to the economic divergence between the two regions in the last half-millennium.
Bruno Frey, Jana Gallus, 02 October 2011
Is religion a ‘crutch for the weak’? This column looks at data on religion and life satisfaction from across the globe and argues that it might just be insurance for the unhappy.
Marco Francesconi, Christian Ghiglino, Motty Perry, 11 February 2010
Why do people form long-lasting marital unions? This column presents new insights on what makes a family stick together. Families dominate more promiscuous pairs, in the sense that they can achieve greater survivorship and enhanced genetic fitness. The column suggests that this might provide an evolutionary explanation for the origin of religion as an institution to protect the family.
Esther Duflo, 20 April 2009
In Africa, where AIDS afflicts 22 million people, most religions promote abstinence and fidelity as the best way to stop the epidemic, especially among adolescents. This column describes two randomised experiments in Kenya showing that a general risk-avoidance message does not change behaviour, whereas a clear message on the relative risks of different sexual partners does.
Andrew Gelman, David Park, Boris Shor, Jeronimo Cortina, 21 April 2008
Barack Obama attracted attention recently by describing small-town Americans who were “bitter” at economic prospects who “cling to guns or religion’’ in frustration. But an opposite view, 'post-materialism', suggests that, as people and societies get richer, their concerns shift from mundane bread-and-butter issues to cultural and spiritual concerns.
David Audretsch, Werner Bönte, Jagannadha Tamvada, 09 July 2007
By examining whether religion has any impact on decision-making that promotes economic growth, i.e. the decision to become an entrepreneur, the authors of DP6378 aim to shed light on two questions: (1) What are the channels by which religion influences economics and (2) Are the impacts on economic activity the same across all religions?