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The Economic Incentives of Cultural Transmission: Spatial Evidence from Naming Patterns across France

  • Algan, Yann
  • Mayer, Thierry
  • Thoenig, Mathias

This paper aims at studying how economic incentives influence cultural transmission. We do so in the context of naming decisions, a crucial expression of cultural identity. Our focus is on Arabic versus Non-Arabic names given by parents to their newborn babies in France over the 2003-2007 period. Our model of cultural transmission disentangles between three determinants: (i) vertical transmission of parental culture; (ii) horizontal influence from the neighborhood; (iii) economic penalty associated with names that sound culturally distinctive. Our identification is based on the sample of households being exogenously allocated across public housings dwellings. We find that economic incentives largely influence naming choices: In the absence of economic penalty, the annual number of babies born with an Arabic name would have been more than 50 percent larger. Our theory-based estimates allow us to perform a welfare analysis where we gauge the strength of cultural attachment in monetary units. We find that the vertical transmission of an Arabic name provides the same shift in parents' utility as a 3\% rise in lifetime income of the child.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9416.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9416
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  1. Keith Head & Thierry Mayer, 2008. "Detection of local interactions from the spatial pattern of names in France," Post-Print hal-01022324, HAL.
  2. Emmanuel Duguet & Noam Leandri & Pascale Petit & Yannick L'Horty, 2010. "Are young French jobseekers of ethnic immigrant origin discriminated against? A controlled experiment in the Paris area," TEPP Working Paper 2010-01, TEPP.
  3. Kenneth Train, 2003. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Online economics textbooks, SUNY-Oswego, Department of Economics, number emetr2.
  4. repec:oup:qjecon:v:109:y:1994:i:3:p:685-99 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/10161 is not listed on IDEAS
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