Two Economics Papers About Culture
| Peter Klein |
The New Institutional Economics focuses mainly on formal rules, both “macro” (constitutions, legal systems, written languages) and “micro” (firms, contracts, other formal agreements). But there are many studies of informal or semi-formal constraints — norms, conventions, religion, belief systems, and other aspects of culture, broadly conceived. Given their commitment to methodological individualism, New Institutional Economists tend to explain the emergence and stability of these phenomena as the consequences — typically unintended — of purposeful individual choices (which distinguishes us from our colleagues on the other side of the aisle). (Culture is important within organizations, as well as between them, though attempts to explain organizational culture in this manner have been less successful.)
Does Culture Matter?
This paper reviews the literature on culture and economics, focusing primarily on the epidemiological approach. The epidemiological approach studies the variation in outcomes across different immigrant groups residing in the same country. Immigrants presumably differ in their cultures but share a common institutional and economic environment. This allows one to separate the effect of culture from the original economic and institutional environment. This approach has been used to study a variety of issues, including female labor force participaiton, fertility, labor market regulation, redistribution, growth, and financial development among others.
Do Social Connections Reduce Moral Hazard? Evidence from the New York City Taxi Industry
C. Kirabo Jackson, Henry S. Schneider
This study investigates the role of social networks in aligning the incentives of economic agents in settings with incomplete contracts. We study the New York City taxi industry where taxis are often leased and lessee-drivers have worse driving outcomes than owner-drivers as a result of a moral hazard associated with incomplete leasing contracts. Using instrumental variables and fixed-effects analyses, we find that: (1) drivers leasing from members of their country-of-birth community exhibit significantly reduced effects of moral hazard; (2) network effects appear to operate primarily via social sanctions; and (3) network benefits can help to explain the organization of the industry in terms of which drivers and owners form business relationships.