Kevin Lewis

May 04, 2021

Economic freedom reform: Does culture matter?
Nicholas Moellman & Danko Tarabar
Journal of Institutional Economics, forthcoming 


We analyse the role of culture in economic freedom reform and dispersion in an unbalanced panel of up to 80 countries, and in dyadic models with up to 3,003 unique country pairs. We find that a sense of individualism strengthens the effectiveness of democracy in promoting economic freedom within countries over 1950-2015, and that institutional distance between countries increases in their cultural distance, suggesting an important role of culture in determining long-run institutional equilibria. Our results are robust to a large variety of socio-economic controls, measures of institutions and measures of bilateral geographic, economic and demographic distances.

The effect of cultural origin on COVID-19 infection rates
Mascia Bedendo, Valentina Febo & Linus Siming
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming


We examine whether a community's cultural origin affects COVID-19 infection rates by exploiting cultural differences in the bilingual province of South Tyrol in Northern Italy. We find lower infection rates in municipalities with a relatively higher proportion of German speakers, even after controlling for widely used measures of social and civic capital. Our findings can be explained by a more future-oriented behaviour of German speakers in comparison with Italian speakers.

Female Genital Cutting and the Slave Trade
Lucia Corno, Eliana La Ferrara & Alessandra Voena
Stanford Working Paper, December 2020


We investigate the historical origins of female genital cutting (FGC), a harmful practice widespread across Africa. We test the hypothesis -- substantiated by historical sources -- that FGC was connected to the Red Sea slave trade route, where women were sold as concubines in the Middle East and infibulation was used to ensure chastity. We hypothesize that differential exposure of ethnic groups to the Red Sea route determined differential adoption of the practice. Combining individual level data from 28 African countries with novel historical data on slaves' shipments by country, ethnic group and trade routes from 1400 to 1900. We find that women belonging to ethnic groups whose ancestors were exposed to the Red Sea route are more likely to be infibulated or circumcised today and are more in favor of continuing the practice. The estimated effects are very similar when slave exports are instrumented by distance to the North-Eastern African coast. Finally, the effect is smaller for ethnic groups that historically freely permitted premarital sex -- a proxy for low demand for chastity.

The Cultural Roots of Economic Expropriation
Gu Zhihui, Wei Sun & Frank Zhou
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, January 2021


Can historical culture explain persistent regional differences in economic expropriation? We document that the levels of tunneling and opacity of Chinese public firms are negatively associated with regional Confucian culture, captured by data from the Qing Dynasty of Imperial China (1644--1912 AD). The results are robust to controlling for local economic development, enforcement of property rights, and geography and to using two instruments constructed from data in the Ming Dynasty (1368--1644 AD). The findings suggest that culture represents a fundamental force that constrains economic expropriation, which has important implications for economic development (Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson, 2001; Rajan and Zingales, 2003).

Cultural differences in perceiving transitions in emotional facial expressions: Easterners show greater contrast effects than westerners
Xia Fang et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


Past research suggests that East Asians (Easterners) are more likely than North Americans and Western Europeans (Westerners) to incorporate information from concurrent affective contexts when judging facial expressions. The present research extends this literature by investigating the impact of temporal affective contexts on emotion perception. Specifically, two experiments tested the hypothesis that when judging smiles, Easterners are more likely than Westerners to be influenced by preceding facial expressions. In Experiment 1, participants from China and Canada judged the valence of low-intensity smiles that were preceded by expressions of anger or high-intensity smiles. The results indicated that, compared to Canadian participants, Chinese perceivers were more influenced by preceding expressions, with larger differences in perceived valence of smiles preceded by different start emotions. Experiment 2 investigated whether this pattern of findings generalized to other Western populations and to other emotional transitions. Participants from China and the Netherlands judged the valence of (high- or low- intensity) smiles preceded by angry, fearful, or neutral expressions. Consistent with Experiment 1, Chinese participants' judgments of smiles were impacted more by the preceding expressions, a finding that was stable across emotions. Together, these findings demonstrate that Easterners, relative to Westerners, are influenced more by the preceding temporal emotional context when judging others' current smiling facial expressions.

Why are Politically Active People Avoided in Countries with Collectivistic Culture? A Cross-Cultural Experiment
Tetsuro Kobayashi et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming 


Although most democratic theories assume that political participation other than voting constitutes an essential input to the political process, little is known about the cultural universality of this assumption. Drawing on cultural psychology findings derived from the widely shared framework of collectivism versus individualism, the present study tests the hypothesis that political demonstrators in collectivistic countries are socially avoided because they are perceived to be a threat to harmonious interpersonal relationships. A cross-national experiment in eight countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, China, South Korea, and India) and one region (Hong Kong) indicated that political demonstrators are socially avoided, and this tendency was significantly stronger in collectivistic countries. Moderated-mediation analyses suggested that the social avoidance of political demonstrators in collectivistic countries is mediated by the perception that they are a threat to harmonious interpersonal relationships. The cross-cultural validity of democratic theory is discussed.

Predicting social tipping and norm change in controlled experiments
James Andreoni, Nikos Nikiforakis & Simon Siegenthaler
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 20 April 2021


The ability to predict when societies will replace one social norm for another can have significant implications for welfare, especially when norms are detrimental. A popular theory poses that the pressure to conform to social norms creates tipping thresholds which, once passed, propel societies toward an alternative state. Predicting when societies will reach a tipping threshold, however, has been a major challenge because of the lack of experimental data for evaluating competing models. We present evidence from a large-scale laboratory experiment designed to test the theoretical predictions of a threshold model for social tipping and norm change. In our setting, societal preferences change gradually, forcing individuals to weigh the benefit from deviating from the norm against the cost from not conforming to the behavior of others. We show that the model correctly predicts in 96% of instances when a society will succeed or fail to abandon a detrimental norm. Strikingly, we observe widespread persistence of detrimental norms even when individuals determine the cost for nonconformity themselves as they set the latter too high. Interventions that facilitate a common understanding of the benefits from change help most societies abandon detrimental norms. We also show that instigators of change tend to be more risk tolerant and to dislike conformity more. Our findings demonstrate the value of threshold models for understanding social tipping in a broad range of social settings and for designing policies to promote welfare.

Residential coexistence: Anonymity, etiquette and proximity in high-rise living
Tamir Arviv & Efrat Eizenberg
Urban Studies, forthcoming


This paper offers a new perspective on everyday life in an ethno-nationally mixed vertical urban setting. It focuses on the cultivation of a shared residential identity that, seemingly, can overcome the binational divide. Drawing on interviews with Jewish and Arab residents in a new middle-class high-rise complex (HRC) in Haifa, Israel, we illustrate that Arabs and Jews share many reasons for living in the HRC, reflecting similarities between these populations that are often ignored. Moreover, the physical form of the complex - including its newness and its modern, universal design - makes it a relatively neutral space free from a particular ethno-national or religious identity. Finally, while the relevant literature largely assumes that 'anonymity' in high-rises is a negative force, the sense of privacy it affords allows residents to manage social proximity and cultivate a philosophy of 'live and let live'.

Colonialism and female empowerment: A two-sided legacy
Eleonora Guarnieri & Helmut Rainer
Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming


This paper studies the long-term effects of colonialism on women by utilizing a historical natural experiment: the partition of Cameroon into a British and a French colony between 1919 and 1961. The two colonial regimes opened up divergent economic opportunities for women in an otherwise culturally and geographically homogeneous setting. Women in British territories gained opportunities to earn cash wages under the same conditions as their male counterparts, while the French colonial practice invested in the male employment dominated infrastructure sector. We use the former Anglo-French border within today's Cameroon in a geographical regression discontinuity design. Our main finding shows that the British colonial rule had a two-sided legacy for women that is still visible today. On the one hand, it empowered women economically in terms of access to employment and being paid in cash wages. On the other hand, it made women highly vulnerable to domestic violence. These results are incompatible with household bargaining models that incorporate domestic violence. Supplementary analyses suggest our findings can be accommodated by theories of male backlash.


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