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Understanding Cultural Persistence and Change

Listed author(s):
  • Paola Giuliano
  • Nathan Nunn

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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23617.

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Date of creation: Jul 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23617
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  1. Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Casper Worm Hansen, 2015. "Climate Shocks and (very) Long-Run Productivity," Discussion Papers 15-15, 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. Durante, Ruben, 2009. "Risk, Cooperation and the Economic Origins of Social Trust: an Empirical Investigation," MPRA Paper 25887, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  12. 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.
  13. Greif, Avner & Tadelis, Steven, 2010. "A theory of moral persistence: Crypto-morality and political legitimacy," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 229-244, September.
  14. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompqllr09iatsh0to2 is not listed on IDEAS
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