Christoph Eder, Martin Halla,
"Economic origins of cultural norms: The case of animal husbandry and bastardy"
, in European Economic Review, Vol. 125, 6-2020
Economic origins of cultural norms: The case of animal husbandry and bastardy
Sprache des Titels:
This paper explores the historical origins of the cultural norm regarding illegitimacy (formerly known as bastardy) in the context of the Habsburg Empire. We test the hypothesis that traditional agricultural production structures influenced the historical illegitimacy
ratio, and have a lasting effect until today. We show that regions that focused in preindustrial periods on animal husbandry (as compared to crop farming) had significantly
higher illegitimacy ratios in the past, and female descendants of these societies are still
more likely to approve illegitimacy and give birth outside of marriage today. To establish
causality, we exploit for Austria, within an IV approach, variation in the local agricultural
suitability, which determined the historical dominance of animal husbandry. Since differences in the agricultural production structure are completely obsolete in today?s economy,
we suggest interpreting the persistence in revealed and stated preferences as a cultural
norm. Complementary evidence shows that this norm is passed down through generations,
and the family is the most important transmission channel. Our findings are one example
for the more general phenomenon that cultural norms can be shaped by economic conditions, and may persist, even if economic conditions become irrelevant.