Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers in Economics,
University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics

No 714: The Origins of Cultural Divergence: Evidence from a Developing Country

Hoang-Anh Ho (), Peter Martinsson () and Ola Olsson ()
Additional contact information
Hoang-Anh Ho: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: P.O. Box 640, SE 40530 GÖTEBORG, Sweden
Peter Martinsson: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: P.O. Box 640, SE 40530 GÖTEBORG, Sweden
Ola Olsson: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: P.O. Box 640, SE 40530 GÖTEBORG, Sweden

Abstract: Cultural norms diverge substantially across societies, even within the same country. The present paper examines the voluntary settlement hypothesis, proposing that individualistic people tend to self-select into migrating out from collectivist societies toward the frontier areas, and that such patterns of historical migration are reflected even in the current distribution of norms. Gaining independence in 939 CE after 1000 years of Chinese colonization, historical Vietnam occupied the region that is now north Vietnam with a collectivist social organization. From the 11th to the 18th centuries, historical Vietnam gradually expanded its territory southward to the Mekong River Delta through various waves of conquest and migration. Combining findings from household survey and lab-in-the-field experiment, we demonstrate that areas annexed earlier to historical Vietnam are currently more prone to a collectivist culture. Relying on many historical accounts, together with various checks and tests, we show that the dominant mechanism behind this finding is the southward out-migration of individualistic people during the territorial expansion.

Keywords: Culture; Individualism-Collectivism; Voluntary Settlement

JEL-codes: N45; O53; Z13

47 pages, First version: December 2017. Revised: June 2018.

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