nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2019‒05‒27
two papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Frontier Culture: The Roots and Persistence of “Rugged Individualism†in the United States By Samuel Bazzi; Martin Fiszbein; Mesay Gebresilasse
  2. The Illusion of Stable Preferences over Major Life Decisions By Maximilian W. Mueller; Joan Hamory Hicks; Jennifer Johnson-Hanks; Edward Miguel

  1. By: Samuel Bazzi (Boston University, NBER and CEPR); Martin Fiszbein (Boston University and NBER); Mesay Gebresilasse (Boston University)
    Abstract: The presence of a westward-moving frontier of settlement shaped early U.S. history. In 1893, the his- torian Frederick Jackson Turner famously argued that the American frontier fostered individualism. We investigate the Frontier Thesis and identify its long-run implications for culture and politics. We track the frontier throughout the 1790–1890 period and construct a novel, county-level measure of to- tal frontier experience (TFE). Historically, frontier locations had distinctive demographics and greater individualism. Long after the closing of the frontier, counties with greater TFE exhibit more perva- sive individualism and opposition to redistribution. This pattern cuts across known divides in the U.S., including urban–rural and north–south. We provide suggestive evidence on the roots of fron- tier culture: selective migration, an adaptive advantage of self-reliance, and perceived opportunities for upward mobility through effort. Overall, our findings shed new light on the frontier’s persistent legacy of rugged individualism.
    Keywords: Culture, Individualism, Preferences for Redistribution, American Frontier, Persistence
    JEL: D72 H2 N31 N91 O43 P16
    Date: 2018–06
  2. By: Maximilian W. Mueller; Joan Hamory Hicks; Jennifer Johnson-Hanks; Edward Miguel
    Abstract: We examine the stability of preferences over time using panel data from Kenya on fertility intentions, realizations, and recall of intentions. We find that desired fertility is very unstable, but that most people perceive their desires to be stable. Under hypothetical scenarios, few expect their desired fertility to increase over time. Moreover, when asked to recall past intentions, most respondents report previously wanting exactly as many children as they desire today. Biased recall of preferences over a major life decision could have important implications for measuring excess fertility, the evolution of norms, and the perceived need for family planning programs.
    JEL: D83 D84 D91 I12 J12 J13 O12
    Date: 2019–05

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