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The Economic Incentives of Cultural Transmission: Spatial Evidence from Naming Patterns across France

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  • Algan, Yann
  • Mayer, Thierry
  • Thoenig, Mathias

Abstract

This paper aims at studying how economic incentives influence cultural transmission. We do so in the context of naming decisions, a crucial expression of cultural identity. Our focus is on Arabic versus Non-Arabic names given by parents to their newborn babies in France over the 2003-2007 period. Our model of cultural transmission disentangles between three determinants: (i) vertical transmission of parental culture; (ii) horizontal influence from the neighborhood; (iii) economic penalty associated with names that sound culturally distinctive. Our identification is based on the sample of households being exogenously allocated across public housings dwellings. We find that economic incentives largely influence naming choices: In the absence of economic penalty, the annual number of babies born with an Arabic name would have been more than 50 percent larger. Our theory-based estimates allow us to perform a welfare analysis where we gauge the strength of cultural attachment in monetary units. We find that the vertical transmission of an Arabic name provides the same shift in parents' utility as a 3\% rise in lifetime income of the child.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9416.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9416

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Keywords: Culture; Social Interaction;

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Cited by:
  1. Algan, Yann & Hémet, Camille & Laitin, David, 2011. "Diversity and Public Goods: a Natural Experiment with Exogeneous Residential Allocation," CEPR Discussion Papers 8621, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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