Cultural Evolution and the Economic Wealth of Nations
Published in: The Oxford Handbook of Cultural Evolution, pages C54P1-C54N1 (2023). doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198869252.013.54
Posted on RAND.org on May 25, 2023
Whilst some nations thrive and flourish, others experience profound problems. Predicting how and why national fortunes vary is a major challenge for the social sciences. This chapter reviews research on the cultural evolution of economic development around the globe, including the relationship between development outcomes and linguistic and religious ancestry, and the relative contributions of cultural differences in technology, institutions, norms and values. The chapter highlights that while the causal relationships between these domains of culture are complex and yet to be fully understood, it appears the least tangible aspects of culture, our norms and values, are among the most resistant to change and are critical to the adoption of technologies and institutions linked to development over the long term. The chapter concludes with a discussion of implications of this work for policy-makers and suggestions for future research.