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The Persistence of Inferior Cultural-Institutional Conventions

  • Marianna Belloc
  • Samuel Bowles

Our theory of cultural-institutional persistence and innovation is based on uncoordinated updating of individual social norms and contracts, so that both culture and institutions co-evolve. We explain why Pareto-dominated cultural-institutional configurations may persist over long periods and how transitions nonetheless occur. In our model the exercise of elite power plays no role in either persistence or innovation, and transitions occur endogenously. This is unlike models in which elites impose inferior institutions or cultures as a self-interested distributional strategy. We show that persistence will be greater the more inferior is the Pareto-dominated configuration and the more rational and individualistic is the population.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 103 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 93-98

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:103:y:2013:i:3:p:93-98
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.3.93
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