Ancient Origins of the Global Variation in Economic Preferences

63 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020

See all articles by Anke Becker

Anke Becker

Harvard University

Benjamin Enke

Harvard University

Armin Falk

University of Bonn - Economic Science Area; briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

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Abstract

Variation in economic preferences is systematically related to both individual and aggregate economic outcomes, yet little is known about the origins of the worldwide preference variation. This paper uses globally representative data on risk aversion, time preference, altruism, positive reciprocity, negative reciprocity, and trust to uncover that contemporary preference heterogeneity has its roots in the structure of the temporally distant migration patterns of our very early ancestors: In dyadic regressions, differences in preferences between populations are significantly increasing in the length of time elapsed since the ancestors of the respective groups broke apart from each other. To document this pattern, we link genetic and linguistic distance measures to population-level preference differences (i) in a wide range of cross-country regressions, (ii) in within-country analyses across groups of migrants, and (iii) in analyses that leverage variation across linguistic groups. While temporal distance drives differences in all preferences, the patterns are strongest for risk aversion and prosocial traits.

Keywords: risk preferences, time preferences, social preferences, origins of preferences

JEL Classification: D01, D03

Suggested Citation

Becker, Anke and Enke, Benjamin and Falk, Armin, Ancient Origins of the Global Variation in Economic Preferences. IZA Discussion Paper No. 13052, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3562842

Anke Becker (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Benjamin Enke

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Armin Falk

University of Bonn - Economic Science Area ( email )

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Schaumburg-Lippe-Stra├če 5-9
Bonn, 53113
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.briq-institute.org/

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