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Understanding Cultural Persistence and Change

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  • Paola Giuliano
  • Nathan Nunn

Abstract

We examine a determinant of cultural persistence that has emerged from a class of models in evolutionary anthropology: the similarity of the environment across generations. Within these models, when the environment is more similar across generations, the traits that have evolved up to the previous generation are more likely to be optimal for the current generation. In equilibrium, a greater value is placed on tradition and there is greater cultural persistence. We test this hypothesis by measuring the variability of different climatic measures across 20-year generations from 500–1900. Employing a variety of tests, each using different samples and empirical strategies, we find that populations with ancestors who lived in environments with more cross-generational instability place less importance in maintaining tradition today and exhibit less cultural persistence.

Suggested Citation

  • Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2017. "Understanding Cultural Persistence and Change," NBER Working Papers 23617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23617
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Understanding Cultural Persistence and Change
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2018-05-17 19:54:59

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    Cited by:

    1. Helmut Rainer & Clara Albrecht & Stefan Bauernschuster & Anita Fichtl & Timo Hener & Joachim Ragnitz, 2018. "Deutschland 2017 - Studie zu den Einstellungen und Verhaltensweisen der Bürgerinnen und Bürger im vereinigten Deutschland," ifo Forschungsberichte, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 96, September.
    2. Brodeur, Abel & Haddad, Joanne, 2018. "Institutions, Attitudes and LGBT: Evidence from the Gold Rush," IZA Discussion Papers 11957, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Liang, Ruobing & Wang, Xiaobing & Yamauchi, Futoshi, 2018. "Cotton Revolution And Widow Chastity In Ming And Qing China," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 274177, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    4. Samuel Bazzi & Martin Fiszbein & Mesay Gebresilasse, 2017. "Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism†in the United States," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2018-004, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    5. Annalisa Frigo & Eric Roca Fernandez, 2019. "Roots of Gender Equality: the Persistent Effect of Beguinages on Attitudes Toward Women," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2019013, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    6. Maria Rosaria Carillo & Vincenzo Lombardo & Alberto Zazzaro, 2019. "The rise and fall of family firms in the process of development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 43-78, March.
    7. Fabian Wahl, 2017. "Does European development have Roman roots? Evidence from the German Limes," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 313-349, September.
    8. Eder, Christoph & Halla, Martin, 2017. "Economic Origins of Cultural Norms: The Case of Animal Husbandry and Bastardy," IZA Discussion Papers 10969, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Oded Galor & Viacheslav Savitskiy, 2018. "Climatic Roots of Loss Aversion," NBER Working Papers 25273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Samuel Bazzi & Martin Fiszbein & Mesay Gebresilasse, 2017. "Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of "Rugged Individualism" in the United States," NBER Working Papers 23997, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Humphreys, Macartan & de la Sierra, Raúl Sánchez & der Windt, Peter Van, 2019. "Exporting democratic practices: Evidence from a village governance intervention in Eastern Congo," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 279-301.
    12. Samuel Bazzi & Martin Fiszbein & Mesay Gebresilasse, 2018. "Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism†in the United States," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series dp-302, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    13. Humphreys, Macartan & Sánchez de la Sierra, Raúl & Van der Windt, Peter, 2019. "Exporting democratic practices: Evidence from a village governance intervention in Eastern Congo," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 279-301.
    14. Wang, Jingfan & Tchapmi, Lyne P. & Ravikumar, Arvind P. & McGuire, Mike & Bell, Clay S. & Zimmerle, Daniel & Savarese, Silvio & Brandt, Adam R., 2020. "Machine vision for natural gas methane emissions detection using an infrared camera," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 257(C).
    15. Toroghi, Shahaboddin H. & Oliver, Matthew E., 2019. "Framework for estimation of the direct rebound effect for residential photovoltaic systems," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 251(C), pages 1-1.
    16. Andrew Dickens, 2020. "Understanding Ethnic Differences: The Roles of Geography and Trade," Working Papers 1901, Brock University, Department of Economics.
    17. Oded Galor & Viacheslav Savitskiy, 2018. "Climatic Roots of Loss Aversion," CESifo Working Paper Series 6917, CESifo.
    18. Gutmann, Jerg & Voigt, Stefan, 2019. "Traditional law in times of the nation state: Why is it so prevalent?," ILE Working Paper Series 29, University of Hamburg, Institute of Law and Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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