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Culture formation and endogenous cultural distance


  • Pichler, Michael

    (Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University)


This paper introduces a new approach to "cultural transmission of preferences" (see Bisin and Verdier, 2000, 2001). It is based on the conceptualization of the culture of a person as a set of cultural values and attitudes, represented as an n-dimensional tuple in Euclidean space. The culture of a person is formed through social learning and imitation from role-models, which correspond to the chosen "displayed cultures" of parents ("vertical transmission") and the society at large ("oblique transmission"). Parents might choose a "displayed culture" that does not coincide with their true culture, since they aim at countervailing negative cultural influences that their children are exposed to in the society at large. Additionally, they can invest into the success that their displayed culture has in the socialization process of their children. We will consider in the present paper an OLG model with two cultural groups, and where in any period, the members of each of the cultural groups have identical culture. We show that if parents have a desire for cultural closeness to their children (e.g. "imperfect empathy"), then they will always behave culturally more "radical" relative to the culture of the other cultural group. Furthermore, they will always invest into their socialization success. Nevertheless, these investments are never sufficient to let the distance between the future cultures of the children of both cultural groups be larger or equal than the cultural distance of the parental generation. As a consequence, the cultures of both groups converge to a homogeneous steady state culture, which can be interpreted as a mixture of the two initial cultures. This result corresponds to the "melting pot" theory of integration of cultural groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Pichler, Michael, 2011. "Culture formation and endogenous cultural distance," Center for Mathematical Economics Working Papers 403, Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University.
  • Handle: RePEc:bie:wpaper:403

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alberto Bisin & Eleonora Patacchini & Thierry Verdier & Yves Zenou, 2008. "Are Muslim Immigrants Different in Terms of Cultural Integration?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 445-456, 04-05.
    2. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    3. Bisin, Alberto & Verdier, Thierry, 1998. "On the cultural transmission of preferences for social status," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 75-97, October.
    4. Hauk, Esther & Saez-Marti, Maria, 2002. "On the Cultural Transmission of Corruption," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 311-335, December.
    5. Bisin, Alberto & Patacchini, Eleonora & Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2006. "'Bend It Like Beckham': Identity, Socialization and Assimilation," CEPR Discussion Papers 5662, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fabrizio Panebianco, 2009. "�Driving While Black�: A Theory for Interethnic Integration and Evolution of Prejudice," Working Papers 2009_10, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".

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    Cultural transmission; Socialization;

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