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Preferences as Human Capital: Rational Choice Theories of Endogenous Preferences and Socioeconomic Changes

  • Maria Saez-Marti

    ()

    (IEW University of Zurich)

  • Fabrizio Zilibotti

    (University of Zurich and CEPR)

We discuss the theoretical and empirical foundations of modern economic theories of cultural transmission. The importance of cultural factors in shaping economic and social transformations has been the focus of a long-standing debate in social sciences since the XIXth Century. Neoclassical economics has remained at the marging of this debate. However, there has been a recent surge of interest among economists for cultural factors. The economic models of cultural transmission borrow the main ideas from the anthropological literature, but endogeneize the efforts parents exert to transmit specific cultural variants or preference parameters. We distinguish between paternalistic models where parents use their own values to evaluate their children’s utility, and non-paternalistic or utilitarian models in which parents choose their children’s preferences to maximize the children’s well-being. We discuss recent examples, focusing in particular on corruption, patience, and work ethic.

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Article provided by Finnish Economic Association in its journal Finnish Economic Papers.

Volume (Year): 21 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (Autumn)
Pages: 81-94

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Handle: RePEc:fep:journl:v:21:y:2008:i:2:p:81-94
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  1. Esther Hauk & Maria Sáez, 1999. "On the cultural transmission of corruption," Economics Working Papers 392, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  2. Botticini, Maristella & Eckstein, Zvi, 2006. "From Farmers to Merchants, Voluntary Conversions and Diaspora: A Human Capital Interpretation of Jewish History," CEPR Discussion Papers 6006, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2007. "Occupational choice and the spirit of capitalism," IEW - Working Papers 326, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  4. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro & Flavio Cunha, 2004. "The Technology of Skill Formation," 2004 Meeting Papers 681, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596, May.
  6. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Botticini, Maristella & Eckstein, Zvi, 2005. "Jewish Occupational Selection: Education, Restrictions, or Minorities?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(04), pages 922-948, December.
  8. Paola Giuliano, 2007. "Living Arrangements in Western Europe: Does Cultural Origin Matter?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(5), pages 927-952, 09.
  9. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
  10. Sáez-Martí, María & Sjögren, Anna, 2005. "Peers and Culture," Working Paper Series 642, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  11. Becker, Gary S & Mulligan, Casey B, 1997. "The Endogenous Determination of Time Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 729-58, August.
  12. James Heckman, 2011. "Policies to foster human capital," Educational Studies, Higher School of Economics, issue 3, pages 73-137.
  13. Sáez-Martí, Maria & Zenou, Yves, 2010. "Cultural Transmission and Discrimination," CEPR Discussion Papers 7622, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Raquel Fernández & Alessandra Fogli, 2005. "Fertility: The Role of Culture and Family Experience," NBER Working Papers 11569, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Nicholas, Tom, 1999. "Clogs to Clogs in Three Generations? Explaining Entrepreneurial Performance in Britain Since 1850," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(03), pages 688-713, September.
  16. John M. Barron & Mark C. Berger & Dan A. Black, 2006. "Selective Counteroffers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 385-410, July.
  17. Bisin, Alberto & Verdier, Thierry, 2001. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and the Dynamics of Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 298-319, April.
  18. Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2005. "Social Class and the Spirit of Capitalism," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 516-524, 04/05.
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