Do cultural attitudes affect institutions and economic performance? This paper suggests they do. To measure the impact of cultural attitudes we use prevalence rates of the common parasite Toxoplasma gondii which is known to affect individual attitudes and societal values in predictable ways. By using prevalence rates of Toxoplasma as instrument for cultural variation, we are able to isolate the effects of cultural attitudes on institutions, distinguishing them from effects of institutions and economic outcomes on culture. We find that our indicators of cultural attitudes are significant determinants of institutional quality, and strong predictors of long-run economic performance.
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Occasions of humans eaten by cats are rather rare, so humans are generally a dead end for the parasite.
For instance, people might seek the comfort of cats to alleviate the stress caused by bad institutions. We thank Pauline Grosjean for this suggestion.
We thank an anonymous referee for this suggestion.
Countries included in our primary analysis are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Bahrain, Brazil, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Greenland, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jordan, Japan, Kuwait, Morocco, Mexico, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
Other dimensions are masculinity and long-term orientation (Hofstede 2001). These dimensions are less well–researched, however, and their theoretical content is not that clear, especially in the case of long-term orientation. What is more, conceptually, these dimensions are less convincingly related to either toxoplasma or institutions or both of them.
Data are publicly available at www.govindicators.org. We take the average of year scores for the period 1996–2009.
Ln GNI/capita not included as covariate.
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We thank Lee Benham, Sjoerd Beugelsdijk, Eelke de Jong, Sonja Opper, Harry Garretsen, participants of the ISNIE 2011 Conference at Stanford University, seminar participants at the University of Lund, Oded Galor and two anonymous reviewers for their support and useful comments. Technical assistance by Dimitrios Soudis is greatly appreciated. All views expressed in this paper are the author’s alone.
See Appendix Table 7.
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Maseland, R. Parasitical cultures? The cultural origins of institutions and development. J Econ Growth 18, 109–136 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10887-013-9089-x
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