A (nascent) list of interesting analyses of social change and culture. I'll probably add more over time.
- The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy. "This article demonstrates historically and statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. It argues that CPs were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely. [...] The association between Protestant missions and democracy is consistent in different continents and subsamples, and it is robust to more than 50 controls and to instrumental variable analyses."
- The Origins of WEIRD Psychology. "We propose that much of this variation arose as people psychologically adapted to differing kin-based institutions—the set of social norms governing descent, marriage, residence and related domains. We further propose that part of the variation in these institutions arose historically from the Catholic Church’s marriage and family policies, which contributed to the dissolution of Europe’s traditional kin-based institutions, leading eventually to the predominance of nuclear families and impersonal institutions." (See also: Family Ties.)
- Global Evidence on Economic Preferences. "This paper presents the Global Preference Survey (GPS), the first global survey focused on measuring a set of fundamental economic preferences: risk preference, time preference, positive and negative reciprocity, altruism, and trust. The paper shows that these preferences differ substantially across countries, but heterogeneity within countries is even more pronounced. The preferences vary systematically with plausibly exogenous individual characteristics – gender, cognitive ability, age, and cultural differences as captured by language structure – as well as country-level characteristics like geography. " Figures 2 and 3 are very interesting.
- Religious change preceded economic change in the 20th century. "The decline in the everyday importance of religion with economic development is a well-known correlation, but which phenomenon comes first? Using unsupervised factor analysis and a birth cohort approach to create a retrospective time series, we present 100-year time series of secularization in different nations, derived from recent global values surveys, which we compare by decade to historical gross domestic product figures in those nations. We find evidence that a rise in secularization generally has preceded economic growth over the past century. Our multilevel, time-lagged regressions also indicate that tolerance for individual rights predicted 20th century economic growth even better than secularization. These findings hold when we control for education and shared cultural heritage."
- The weirdest people in the world?. "Behavioral scientists routinely publish broad claims about human psychology and behavior in the world’s top journals based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies. [...] Overall, these empirical patterns suggests that we need to be less cavalier in addressing questions of human nature on the basis of data drawn from this particularly thin, and rather unusual, slice of humanity."
- Relationship of gender differences in preferences to economic development and gender equality. "Preferences concerning time, risk, and social interactions systematically shape human behavior and contribute to differential economic and social outcomes between women and men. We present a global investigation of gender differences in six fundamental preferences. Our data consist of measures of willingness to take risks, patience, altruism, positive and negative reciprocity, and trust for 80,000 individuals in 76 representative country samples. Gender differences in preferences were positively related to economic development and gender equality. This finding suggests that greater availability of and gender-equal access to material and social resources favor the manifestation of gender-differentiated preferences across countries."
- Where do pro-social institutions come from? "Where do ‘good’ or pro-social institutions come from? Why does the capacity for collective action and cooperative behaviour vary so much across the world today? How do some populations transcend tribalism to form a civil society? How have some societies gone beyond personal relations and customary rules to impersonal market exchange and anonymous institutions? In short, how do you “get to Denmark”? I first take a look at what the “cultural evolution” literature has to say about it. I then turn to the intersection of economics and differential psychology." (See also: “Experimenting with Social Norms” in Small-Scale Societies.)
Recommendations always welcome.