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Long-run cultural divergence: Evidence from the Neolithic Revolution

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  • Olsson, Ola
  • Paik, Christopher

Abstract

This paper investigates the long-run influence of the Neolithic Revolution on contemporary cultural norms as reflected in the dimension of collectivism–individualism. We present a theory of agricultural origins of cultural divergence, where we claim that the advent of farming in a core region was characterized by collectivist values and eventually triggered the out-migration of individualistic farmers towards more and more peripheral areas. This migration pattern caused the initial cultural divergence, which remained persistent over generations. Using detailed data on the date of adoption of Neolithic agriculture among Western regions and countries, the empirical findings show that the regions which adopted agriculture early also value obedience more and feel less in control of their lives. The findings add to the literature by suggesting the possibility of extremely long-lasting norms and beliefs influencing today's socioeconomic outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Olsson, Ola & Paik, Christopher, 2016. "Long-run cultural divergence: Evidence from the Neolithic Revolution," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 197-213.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:122:y:2016:i:c:p:197-213
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2016.05.003
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    Cited by:

    1. Vu, Trung V., 2020. "Individualism and climate change policies: International evidence," MPRA Paper 98888, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Maria Rosaria Carillo & Vincenzo Lombardo & Alberto Zazzaro, 2019. "The rise and fall of family firms in the process of development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 43-78, March.
    3. Oana Borcan & Ola Olsson & Louis Putterman, 2018. "State history and economic development: evidence from six millennia," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 1-40, March.
    4. Anne Sofie Beck Knudsen, 2019. "Those Who Stayed: Individualism, Self-Selection and Cultural Change during the Age of Mass Migration," Discussion Papers 19-01, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    5. Manuel Santos Silva & Amy C. Alexander & Stephan Klasen & Christian Welzel, 2017. "The Roots of Female Emancipation: From Perennial Cool Water via Pre-industrial Late Marriages to Post-industrial Gender Equality," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 241, Courant Research Centre PEG.
    6. Samuel Bazzi & Martin Fiszbein & Mesay Gebresilasse, 2017. "Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism†in the United States," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2018-004, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    7. James B. Ang, 2019. "Agricultural legacy and individualistic culture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 397-425, December.
    8. Samuel Bazzi & Martin Fiszbein & Mesay Gebresilasse, 2017. "Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism” in the United States," NBER Working Papers 23997, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. BenYishay, Ariel & Grosjean, Pauline & Vecci, Joe, 2017. "The fish is the friend of matriliny: Reef density and matrilineal inheritance," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 234-249.
    10. Boranbay, Serra & Guerriero, Carmine, 2019. "Endogenous (in)formal institutions," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 921-945.
    11. Dombi, Akos & Grigoriadis, Theocharis & Zhu, Junbing, 2020. "Antiquity and capitalism: The finance-growth perspective," Discussion Papers 2020/9, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    12. Szoltysek, Mikolaj & Poniat, Radosław, 2019. "Historical family systems and lasting developmental trajectories in Europe: the power of the family?," SocArXiv ad7qr, Center for Open Science.
    13. Samuel Bazzi & Martin Fiszbein & Mesay Gebresilasse, 2018. "Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism†in the United States," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series dp-302, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    14. Benos, Nikos & Kammas, Pantelis, 2018. "Workers of the world unite (or not?) The effect of ethnic diversity on the participation in trade unions," MPRA Paper 84880, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Johannes C. Buggle, 2020. "Growing collectivism: irrigation, group conformity and technological divergence," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 147-193, June.
    16. Benjamin Enke, 2018. "Kinship Systems, Cooperation, and the Evolution of Culture," CESifo Working Paper Series 6867, CESifo.
    17. Andrew Phiri, 2020. "Beyond the chains: Slavery and Africa’s wealth gap with the world," Working Papers 2003, Department of Economics, Nelson Mandela University, revised Mar 2020.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Neolithic agriculture; Comparative development; Western reversal;

    JEL classification:

    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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