Oded Galor, Ömer Özak, Assaf Sarid, 20 January 2019

Evidence suggests that ancient regional variations in geographical characteristics contributed to the differential formation of culturaland linguistic traits, which in turn shaped development and inequality in today’s world. This column discusses how geographical characteristics are linked to the emergence of long-term orientation and the future tense, how they shaped distinct gender roles and possibly contributed to the emergence of grammatical gender, and how ecological diversity is connected to the emergence of hierarchical societies and reflected in politeness distinctions in language.

Joan Costa-i-Font, Paola Giuliano, Berkay Ozcan, 30 September 2018

Previous studies have shown that saving rates are influenced by, among other things, demographics and income, but much of the difference in saving rates across societies remains unexplained. This column uses data covering three generations of immigrants in the UK to demonstrate that culture is an important explanation for cross-country differences in saving behaviour. When designing incentives to save, culture should therefore be taken into account.

Armin Falk, Anke Becker, Thomas Dohmen, Benjamin Enke, David Huffman, Uwe Sunde, 19 June 2018

Vast inequalities exist within societies as well as across nations. This column uses a new dataset to show that preferences vary substantially across and within societies, and that these differences are related to differences in economic outcomes at the individual and aggregate levels. The findings suggest that institutional reform should take into account how institutions may interact with preference differences. 

Alison Booth, 11 May 2018

Recent research has suggested that an element of the gender wage gap can be explained by differences between men and women in their competitiveness and risk-taking. Using evidence from post-Cultural Revolution Beijing and Taipei, Alison Booth discusses her work on the extent to which these differences can be explained by the culture in which people grow up. This video was recorded at the 2018 RES annual conference.

Simeon Djankov, Elena Nikolova, 26 April 2018

While the existing scholarship has explained long-run institutional development across countries with a variety of different factors, the literature remains largely silent on the role of religion. Using survey data, this column shows that deep-rooted theological differences between Orthodoxy, and Catholicism and Protestantism affect life satisfaction and other attitudes and values in large parts of Europe today. Although totalitarian governments suppressed religious activities, they preserved those aspects of Orthodoxy – such as tradition and communitarianism – which were helpful for advancing the communist doctrine.

Thomas Andersen, Jeanet Bentzen, Carl-Johan Dalgaard, Paul Sharp, 23 October 2017

Examples of the interaction of religious influence and economic performance have occurred throughout history, most notable Weber’s argument of the ‘Protestant ethic’. This column uses an earlier example, of the Cistercian Catholic Order, to show that religious values did influence productivity and economic performance in England and across Europe. The effect of this historic influence has persisted to today.

Dalia Marin, Linda Fache Rousová, Thierry Verdier, 21 September 2016

We know little detail about how much multinational firms transplant their organisational culture to affiliates. Data from Austrian and German multinational firms shows that, contrary to what we might expect, almost 70% of foreign investments do not adopt the parent firm's mode of organisation. This column argues that the size of the home and host markets, and the level of competition in each market, all influence the decision to transplant culture. Globalisation also creates 'reverse transplanting', in which the parent firm's organisation becomes more like the optimal organisation of the subsidiary. 

Klaus Desmet, Ignacio Ortuño-Ortin, Romain Wacziarg, 31 July 2016

The current refugee crisis has highlighted the importance of understanding how ethnic and cultural differences affect social cohesion. This column investigates the links between ethnicity and culture, and the relationship between diversity and civil conflict. It finds that globally, there appears to be little overlap between ethnic identity and cultural identity. Also, ethnic diversity per se has no effect on civil conflict. It is when differences in culture coincide with differences in ethnicity that conflict becomes more likely.

Jakob de Haan, Wijnand Nuijts, Mirea Raaijmakers, 06 November 2015

The Global Crisis revealed serious deficiencies in the supervision of financial institutions. In particular, regulators neglected organisational culture at the institutional level. This column reviews efforts since 2011 by De Nederlandsche Bank to oversee executive behaviour and cultures at financial institutions. These measures aimed at identifying risky behaviour and decision-making processes at a sufficiently early stage for appropriate countermeasures to be implemented. The findings show that regulators can play a larger part in securing the stability of the financial system by taking an active role in shaping institutional cultural processes.

Simone Moriconi, Giovanni Peri, 19 October 2015

Unemployment rates vary widely across EU countries. While national institutions and policies explain much of the variation, cultural values, attitudes, and beliefs may also play a role. This column uses survey data from 26 EU countries to investigate the existence of culturally transmitted preferences for work. Country-specific preferences for work are found to have a positive effect on emigrants’ labour market outcomes, with those from countries with an above-average preference for work having higher employment rates abroad. Cultural preferences are significant enough that EU countries may never converge to the same employment rate.

Enrico Spolaore, Romain Wacziarg, 27 June 2015

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.

Esther Hauk, Giovanni Immordino, 16 October 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, 13 October 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, 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.

John Helliwell, Shun Wang, Jinwen Xu, 12 March 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, 11 October 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, 03 October 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 Butler, Paola Giuliano, Luigi Guiso, 18 December 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, 29 August 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, 21 November 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.



CEPR Policy Research