On culture: maybe more research is needed

6 Aug

Inspired by this NYT story on beach behavior in Qingdao, China  to say I’m glad that economists are starting to work on social norms, culture, and development.

It’s moved way beyond the primitive circular reasoning whereby any poor people were assumed to have a “bad” culture. Culture is partly an endogenous choice; for example, parents decide how much effort to exert to pass their culture on to their children. For a good intro, check out the work of my NYU colleague Alberto Bisin.

PS the relevant cultural norms relevant in the picture are apparently how much female beauty involves pale skin, and on how much extreme measures are acceptable to achieve that.