Economic Theory

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 449–475 | Cite as

Coordination and culture

  • Jean-Paul CarvalhoEmail author
Research Article


Culture constrains individual choice, rendering certain actions impermissible or taboo. While cultural constraints may regulate behavior within a group, they can have a pernicious effect in multicultural societies, inhibiting the emergence of unified social conventions. We analyze interactions between members of two cultural groups who are matched to play a coordination game with an arbitrary number of actions. Due to cultural constraints, miscoordination prevails despite strong incentives to coordinate behavior. In an application to identity-based conflict, exclusive ethnic and religious identities persist in poorer and more unequal societies. Occasional violation of cultural constraints can make miscoordination even more stable.


Culture Conflict Coordination failure Stochastic stability 

JEL Classification

C72 C73 Z1 



This paper has benefitted greatly from advice by Peyton Young, as well as comments by the Associate Editor, two anonymous referees, Blake Allison, Ken Binmore, Rob Boyd, Michael Caldara, David Myatt, Tom Norman, Michael Sacks, Stergios Skaperdas, Christopher Wallace and seminar participants at UCLA Anderson, Claremont Graduate University, the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences, UC Irvine and the University of Western Australia. All errors are mine. Financial support from the Commonwealth Bank Foundation in the form of a John Monash scholarship is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA

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