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Research related to:  Culture

Civilizing Society

This paper attempts to answer two important questions in economics. First, what virtues are important for promoting economic progress? Second, what is the source of these virtues? To answer these questions, I rely on recent studies suggesting that the virtues of trustworthiness, tolerance and respect, and individual determination are important for understanding how civil society supports economic prosperity. Specifically, trust, respect, and individual motivation encourage and support economic freedom. I also explore competing explanations for the determinants of virtues including religion, the role of government, and the act of economic exchange for civilizing society. My analysis finds support for the latter source. . . 
Claudia R. Williamson

The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa

We show that current differences in trust levels within Africa can be traced back to the trans-Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades. Combining contemporary individual-level survey data with historic data on slave shipments by ethnic group, we find that individuals whose ancestors were heavily raided during the slave trade are less trusting today. Evidence from a variety of identification strategies suggest that the relationship is causal. Examining causal mechanisms, we show that most of the impact of the slave trade is through factors that are internal to the individual, such as cultural norms, beliefs, and values.
Leonard antchekon and Nathan Nunn

Does Culture Matter?

This paper reviews the literature on culture and economics, focusing primarily on the epidemiological approach. The epidemiological approach studies the variation in outcomes across different immigrant groups residing in the same country. Immigrants presumably differ in their cultures but share a common institutional and economic environment. This allows one to separate the effect of culture from the original economic and institutional environment. This approach has been used to study a variety of issues, including female labor force participation, fertility, labor market regulation, redistribution, growth, and …financial development among others.

Cultural Context: The Productivity of Capitalism

Does capitalism perform better when embedded in certain cultures? Given the wide range of economic success and failure, we address potential causes for the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of institutional constraints. This paper argues that culture matters for the success of capitalist institutions, specifically economic freedom. We claim that different cultures may raise or lower the productivity of economic institutions by either constraining or supporting these rules. We analyze this relationship empirically by examining how the interaction between economic freedom and culture affects economic growth. Our results suggest that culture does, indeed, enhance the effectiveness of capitalism and its subsequent impact on growth . . . 
Claudia Williamson and Rachel Mathers

Economic Freedom, Culture and Growth

How does economic freedom and culture impact economic growth? This paper argues that culture and economic institutions, specifically economic freedom, both play a role in economic development independently, but the strength of their impact can only be better understood when both are included in the growth regression. We find that, when both are included in the growth regression, the impact of culture is greatly diminished, while economic freedom continues to have a significant impact on economic growth. Our results suggest that economic freedom is more important than culture for growth outcomes, though the mechanisms through which culture affects growth warrant further investigation. We posit that culture may be more important for initial growth, diminishing in significance once the institutions of economic freedom have been established.
Claudia Williamson, NYU and Rachel Mathers, West Virginia University

The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa

We investigate the historical origins of mistrust within Africa. Combining contemporary household survey data with historic data on slave shipments by ethnic group, we show that individuals whose ancestors were heavily threatened by the slave trade today exhibit less trust in neighbors, family co-ethnics, and their local government. We confirm that the relationship is causal by instrumenting the historic intensity of the slave trade by the historic distance from the coast of the respondent’s ancestors, controlling for the respondent’s current distance from the coast . . . 
Nathan Nunn and Leonard Wantchekon