Folklore

79 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2019

See all articles by Stelios Michalopoulos

Stelios Michalopoulos

Brown University - Department of Economics; Brown University

Melanie Meng Xue

Department of Economics & Center for Economic History, Northwestern University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2019

Abstract

Folklore is the collection of traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth. This vast expressive body, studied by the corresponding discipline of folklore, has evaded the attention of economists. In this study we do four things that reveal the tremendous potential of this corpus for understanding comparative development and culture. First, we introduce and describe a unique catalogue of folklore that codes the presence of thousands of motifs for roughly 1,000 pre-industrial societies. Second, we use a dictionary-based approach to elicit group-specific measures of various traits related to the natural environment, institutional framework, and mode of subsistence. We establish that these proxies are in accordance with the ethnographic record, and illustrate how to use a group's oral tradition to quantify non-extant characteristics of preindustrial societies. Third, we use folklore to uncover the historical cultural values of a group. Doing so allows us to test various influential conjectures among social scientists including the original affluent society, the culture of honor among pastoralists, the role of family in extended kinship systems and the intensity of trade and rule-following norms in politically centralized group. Finally, we explore how cultural norms inferred via text analysis of oral traditions predict contemporary attitudes and beliefs.

Keywords: Culture, Development, Folklore, History, Values

JEL Classification: O10, Z1, Z10, Z13

Suggested Citation

Michalopoulos, Stelios and Xue, Melanie Meng, Folklore (January 2019). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP13425. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3314043

Stelios Michalopoulos (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Providence, RI 02912
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/steliosecon/

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Melanie Meng Xue

Department of Economics & Center for Economic History, Northwestern University ( email )

2211 Campus Drive
Office #3197
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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