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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Marianna Belloc & Samuel Bowles, 2013. "The Persistence of Inferior Cultural-Institutional Conventions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 93-98, May.
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sung-Ha Hwang & Jonathan Newton, 2017. "Payoff-dependent dynamics and coordination games," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 64(3), pages 589-604, October.
    2. Newton, Jonathan & Angus, Simon D., 2015. "Coalitions, tipping points and the speed of evolution," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 172-187.
    3. Oded Galor & Ömer Özak, 2016. "The Agricultural Origins of Time Preference," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 3064-3103, October.
    4. Boris Gershman, 2016. "Long-Run Development and the New Cultural Economics," Working Papers 2016-06, American University, Department of Economics.
    5. Fabio Landini, 2016. "The evolution of control in the digital economy," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 407-441, May.
    6. H Peyton Young, 2014. "The Evolution of Social Norms," Economics Series Working Papers 726, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    7. Carlo Beretta, 2016. "Variazioni neoclassiche," QUADERNI DI ECONOMIA DEL LAVORO, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2016(106), pages 101-119.
    8. Pauline Grosjean & Rose Khattar, 2014. "It's Raining Men! Hallelujah?," Discussion Papers 2014-29C, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    9. repec:syd:wpaper:2123/9993 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Pauline Grosjean & Rose Khattar, 2014. "It's Raining Men! Hallelujah?," Discussion Papers 2014-29A, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    11. Innocenti, Stefania & Cowan, Robin, 2016. "Mimetic behaviour and institutional persistence: A two-armed bandit experiment," MERIT Working Papers 028, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    12. Andreas Reinstaller, 2013. "An evolutionary view on social innovation and the process of economic change," WWWforEurope Working Papers series 43, WWWforEurope.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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