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

Author

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  • Maria Saez-Marti

    () (IEW University of Zurich)

  • Fabrizio Zilibotti

    (University of Zurich and CEPR)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Maria Saez-Marti & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2008. "Preferences as Human Capital: Rational Choice Theories of Endogenous Preferences and Socioeconomic Changes," Finnish Economic Papers, Finnish Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 81-94, Autumn.
  • Handle: RePEc:fep:journl:v:21:y:2008:i:2:p:81-94
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
    2. Raquel Fernández & Alessandra Fogli, 2006. "Fertility: The Role of Culture and Family Experience," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(2-3), pages 552-561, 04-05.
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    5. Gary S. Becker & Casey B. Mulligan, 1997. "The Endogenous Determination of Time Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 729-758.
    6. Sáez-Martı´, Maria & Zenou, Yves, 2012. "Cultural transmission and discrimination," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 137-146.
    7. 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, September.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Timothy Besley, 2016. "Aspirations and the Political Economy of Inequality," STICERD - Public Economics Programme Discussion Papers 28, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    2. Omer Moav and & Zvika Neeman, 2012. "Saving Rates and Poverty: The Role of Conspicuous Consumption and Human Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(563), pages 933-956, September.
    3. Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2017. "Parenting With Style: Altruism and Paternalism in Intergenerational Preference Transmission," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 85, pages 1331-1371, September.
    4. Doepke, Matthias & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2014. "Culture, Entrepreneurship, and Growth," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 1-48 Elsevier.
    5. Timothy Besley, 2017. "Aspirations and the political economy of inequality," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 1-35.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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