Research Article

Open Economies Review

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 237-261

First online:

Does Cultural Distance Hinder Trade in Goods? A Comparative Study of Nine OECD Member Nations

  • Bedassa TadesseAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Minnesota—Duluth Email author 
  • , Roger WhiteAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, Franklin and Marshall College

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


We examine the effect of cultural distance, a proxy for the lack of a minimum reservoir of trust necessary to initiate and complete trade deals, on bilateral trade flows. Employing data for 67 countries that span the years 1996–2001, we estimate a series of modified gravity specifications and find that cultural dissimilarity between nations has an economically significant and consistently negative effect on aggregate and disaggregated trade flows; however, estimated effects vary in magnitude and economic significance across measures of trade and our cohort of OECD reference countries. The consistently negative influence of cultural distance indicates that policymakers may wish to consider mechanisms that enhance the build-up of trust and commitment when seeking to facilitate the initiation and completion of international trade deals. Our findings also imply that coefficient estimates from related studies that do not account for the trade-inhibiting effect of cultural distance may be biased.


Cultural distance Gravity Immigration Trade

JEL Classification

F14 F15 F22