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Growing collectivism: irrigation, group conformity and technological divergence

Johannes C. Buggle ()
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Johannes C. Buggle: University of Lausanne

Journal of Economic Growth, 2020, vol. 25, issue 2, No 1, 147-193

Abstract: Abstract This paper examines whether collaboration within groups in pre-industrial agriculture favored the emergence of collectivist rather than individualist cultures. I document that societies whose ancestors jointly practiced irrigation agriculture historically have stronger collectivist norms today. This finding holds across countries, sub-national districts within countries, and migrants, and is robust to instrumenting the historical adoption of irrigation by its geographic suitability. In addition, I find evidence for a culturally-embodied effect of irrigation agriculture on economic behavior. Descendants of irrigation societies innovate less today, and are more likely to work in routine-intensive occupations, even when they live outside their ancestral homelands. Together, my results suggest that historical differences in the need to act collectively have contributed to the global divergence of culture and technology.

Keywords: Agriculture; Culture; Collectivism; Persistence; Innovation; Job tasks (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N00 N50 O10 O30 Z10 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s10887-020-09178-3

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