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The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence From the Kuba Kingdom

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  • Sara Lowes
  • Nathan Nunn
  • James A. Robinson
  • Jonathan L. Weigel

Abstract

We use variation in historical state centralization to examine the long‐term impact of institutions on cultural norms. The Kuba Kingdom, established in Central Africa in the early 17th century by King Shyaam, had more developed state institutions than the other independent villages and chieftaincies in the region. It had an unwritten constitution, separation of political powers, a judicial system with courts and juries, a police force, a military, taxation, and significant public goods provision. Comparing individuals from the Kuba Kingdom to those from just outside the Kingdom, we find that centralized formal institutions are associated with weaker norms of rule following and a greater propensity to cheat for material gain. This finding is consistent with recent models where endogenous investments to inculcate values in children decline when there is an increase in the effectiveness of formal institutions that enforce socially desirable behavior. Consistent with such a mechanism, we find that Kuba parents believe it is less important to teach children values related to rule‐following behaviors.

Suggested Citation

  • Sara Lowes & Nathan Nunn & James A. Robinson & Jonathan L. Weigel, 2017. "The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence From the Kuba Kingdom," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 85, pages 1065-1091, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:85:y:2017:i::p:1065-1091
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sara Lowes & Nathan Nunn & James A. Robinson & Jonathan Weigel, 2015. "Understanding Ethnic Identity in Africa: Evidence from the Implicit Association Test (IAT)," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 340-345, May.
    2. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2011. "Pillars of Prosperity: The Political Economics of Development Clusters," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9624.
    3. Urs Fischbacher & Franziska Föllmi-Heusi, 2013. "Lies In Disguise—An Experimental Study On Cheating," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 525-547, June.
    4. Rauch, James E. & Evans, Peter B., 2000. "Bureaucratic structure and bureaucratic performance in less developed countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 49-71, January.
    5. Dincecco,Mark, 2013. "Political Transformations and Public Finances," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107617759, September.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    7. Nicola Gennaioli & Ilia Rainer, 2007. "The modern impact of precolonial centralization in Africa," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 185-234, September.
    8. S. Bowles & S. Polania-Reyes., 2013. "Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: Substitutes or Complements?," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • N47 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Africa; Oceania

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