It would be so much easier for economists and aid workers to sidestep discussions of the role of culture in economic development. It's so hard to quantify, so slippery to define, and nearly impossible to graph. In this clip from the Development Research Institute's recent conference, NYU Professor Leonard Wantchekon talks about a cultural challenge to development in the country where he grew up, Benin.
Leonard Wantchekon on the Lack of Intra-Community Trust in Benin from DRI on Vimeo.
Wantchekon has traced this lack of trust to the historical legacy of the slave trade, in a research paper he co-authored with Nathan Nunn.
Stories like these point to the importance of bottom-up approaches to development. One-size-fits-all grand plans inevitably lack the cultural specificity to tease out and cope with these potential barriers. Are there other examples of unexpected cultural challenges to development that you've come across?