Economic Thought
Understanding cultural persistence and change
Paola Giuliano , Nathan Nunn
Posted on: 07 Mar 2018
Topics:   Economic Thought

When does culture persist and when does it change? This column examines a determinant that has been put forth in the anthropology literature: the variability of the environment from one generation to the next. It finds that populations with ancestors who lived in environments with more stability from one generation to the next place a greater importance in maintaining tradition today, and exhibit more persistence in their traditions over time.
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Fundamental errors in the voting booth margins
Edward Glaeser , Giacomo Ponzetto
Posted on: 17 Nov 2017
Tags:   democracy

Psychologists have long documented that we over-attribute people's actions to innate characteristics rather than to circumstances. This column shows that when we commit this ‘fundamental attribution error’ as voters; we over-ascribe politicians’ success to personal characteristics that merit re-election. Although this mistake can improve politicians’ incentives in ordinary times, the theory also explains lack of institutional reform and poor institutional choices, such as decreased demand for a free press and preferences for dictatorship.
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Microfinance and predatory lending: The same old story?
Latika Chaudhury , Anand Swamy
Posted on: 19 Sep 2012

Once hailed as a near-miraculous way of lending money to the poor, microfinance is now often seen as exploitation – and governments are stepping in. This column looks at another point in India’s history where lawmakers have intervened in lending practices: following the Deccan Riots between farmers and moneylenders in 1876. It argues that in hindsight this was an overreaction – and perhaps there is a lesson for today.
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