DP12000 On the Joint Evolution of Culture and Institutions

Author(s): Alberto Bisin, Thierry Verdier
Publication Date: April 2017
Keyword(s): Cultural Transmission, evolution of institutions
JEL(s): O10, P16, P48
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Development Economics, Economic History, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12000

Explanations of economic growth and prosperity commonly identify a unique causal effect, e.g., institutions, culture, human capital, geography. In this paper we provide instead a theoretical modeling of the interaction between culture and institutions and their effects on economic activity. We characterize conditions on the socio-economic environment such that culture and institutions complement (resp. substitute) each other, giving rise to a multiplier effect which amplifies (resp. dampens) their combined ability to spur economic activity. We show how the joint dynamics of culture and institutions may display interesting non-ergodic behavior, hysteresis, oscillations, and comparative dynamics. Finally, in specific example societies, we study how culture and institutions interact to determine the sustainability of extractive societies as well as the formation of civic capital and of legal systems protecting property rights.