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Understanding Cultural Persistence and Change

Listed author(s):
  • Giuliano, Paola

    ()

    (University of California, Los Angeles)

  • Nunn, Nathan

    ()

    (Harvard University)

When does culture persist and when does it change? We examine a determinant that has been put forth in the anthropology literature: the variability of the environment from one generation to the next. A prediction, which emerges from a class of existing models from evolutionary anthropology, is that following the customs of the previous generation is relatively more beneficial in stable environments where the culture that has evolved up to the previous generation is more likely to be relevant for the subsequent generation. We test this hypothesis by measuring the variability of average temperature across 20-year generations from 500–1900. Looking across countries, ethnic groups, and the descendants of immigrants, we find that populations with ancestors who lived in environments with more stability from one generation to the next place a greater importance in maintaining tradition today. These populations also exhibit more persistence in their traditions over time.

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File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp10930.pdf
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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 10930.

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Length: 79 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2017
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10930
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  1. Alessandra Fogli & Laura Veldkamp, 2011. "Nature or Nurture? Learning and the Geography of Female Labor Force Participation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(4), pages 1103-1138, 07.
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  6. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompqllr09iatsh0to2 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Francesco Giavazzi & Ivan Petkov & Fabio Schiantarelli, 2014. "Culture: Persistence and Evolution," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 853, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 25 Aug 2016.
  8. Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, 2015. "Acts of God? Religiosity and Natural Disasters Across Subnational World Districts," Discussion Papers 15-06, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
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  10. Hauk, Esther & Saez-Marti, Maria, 2002. "On the Cultural Transmission of Corruption," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 311-335, December.
  11. Marcus W. Feldman & Kenichi Aoki & Jochen Kumm, 1996. "Individual Versus Social Learning: Evolutionary Analysis in a Fluctuating Environment," Working Papers 96-05-030, Santa Fe Institute.
  12. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2016. "Cultural Assimilation during the Age of Mass Migration," NBER Working Papers 22381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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