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Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism†in the United States

Samuel Bazzi, Martin Fiszbein and Mesay Gebresilasse
Additional contact information
Martin Fiszbein: Boston University and NBER
Mesay Gebresilasse: Boston University

No WP2018-004, Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series from Boston University - Department of Economics

Abstract: In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the American frontier fostered individualism. We investigate the Frontier Thesis and identify its long-run implications for culture and politics. We track the frontier throughout the 1790-1890 period and construct a county-level measure of total frontier experience (TFE). Historically, frontier locations had distinctive demographics and greater individualism. Many decades after the closing of the frontier, counties with greater TFE exhibit more pervasive individualism and opposition to redistribution. Suggestive evidence on the roots fo rugged individualism points to selective migration, the adaptive advantage of self-reliance, and opportunities for upward mobility through effort.

Keywords: Culture; Individualism; Preferences for Redistribution; American Frontier; Persistence (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 H2 N31 N91 P16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-gro and nep-his
Date: 2017-11
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:bos:wpaper:wp2018-004

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